03 October 2011


by Mark Angeles

BY THE RIVER, the eucalyptus:
                              the stitches
               of self-wood.

                              A rainbow
undying in shifts
               of versicolor.

                              A nobility changing
               into resplendent raiment.

It cannot be beheld
               of inlaid braid.

The dress disappears of its own accord.

               Rips out the husk
                              so as to celebrate
               the verdant green
                              of stained

               to completely reveal
scraps of blue, purple, and orange.

The river freely accepts the fragments   
               streaming forth,
                              partaken as food
               by its cherished creatures;

sucking in raw exudate

                              of things gum-crafted.

BY THE RIVER, a native:
               dipping clear water
                              with hands joined together.

Her face is sunglint broken
               on rip-tides.
                                             The hems of sea-surface  
                                                            scroll away:                                                        
               shrill reverberations in the universal

Witness the vibrating arrows that follow
                              the strike of the bow
                                             in fiery heavens:

                              not fog but conflagration
                                             from burnt petrol.

BY THE RIVER, the eucalyptus accompanied the hymn,
                              music—kumintang—to the rhythms 
                                             kulintang, tagongko, and kapanirong;
                              gurgles of kutiyapi, dayuday, and daguyung.

               The native beguiled by the budyong. Entranced by 

She reached for the kampilan slung from the waist of history.

AGAIN, the eucalyptus shedding its bodice.
               Shedding and shedding.

                                             Incessant rains
                              lashed the ancient river

               but the native stood rooted:

her fixity
               and faith fenced in            
                              by amber light

                                             of eucalyptus resin

               endlessly spilling
                              from shoots to infinity.



Bagras is the local name of Rainbow Eucalyptus or Rainbow Gum (Eucalyptus deglupta), a Philippine tree whose bark peels off all year round. The kumintang, kulintang, tagongko, kapanirong, kutiyapi, dayuday, and daguyung are traditional Filipino songs or musical instruments. A budyong is either a conch shell or a flute while a kampilan is a sword. 

The original of the above translation came from Engkantado (“Enchanter”), a chapbook by Mark Angeles, available at this link (pdf). It is part of the collection that won third place in the 2010 edition of Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. It also appears in Likhaan Journal 5 of University of the Philippines.

Mark Angeles is former vice president for Luzon of College Editors Guild of the Philippines. He is the author of the poetry collections Patikim and Emotero.

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