13 February 2023

Rosmon Tuazon's still lifes


A month ago I read Sa Pagitan ng mga Emerhensiya (Between Emergencies), a collection of poetry in Filipino by Rosmon Tuazon. I'm still thinking through the lines. I intuit a question behind some poems. The lines tried to supply an answer to the question by circling around images and ideas. No answer was forthcoming as the question gave rise to more questions. There was a profundity beyond the reach of the reader. The poetic images came short of a satisfying answer because the reader was blocked by some roundabout illusion. The reader was unsure if he's being had.

Two months ago, I read Rosmon's bilingual Forth, with English translations by Ben Aguilar, published by the brave indie press Balangay Books. The "free" translations, untethered from literalism, provided a way to approach the clipped and disparate shadows of a poem. 

Reading Rosmon's poems, one was prodded into feeling the entire architecture of shadows instead of grasping at straws of comprehension. One must not isolate and translate the lines but situate them in the canvas of their borrowed, still life. The black ink of Rosmon's letters form a collection of still lifes.

Hindi matuklap ng mga anino ang sarili.

The shadows cannot peel their eyes.

In "Silbi ng Still Life", the poet relied on the art of seeing tactile objects to bring out the grooves and textures of his fruit.

Silbi ng Still Life

May sumisipol-sipol sa tahimik na pasilyo.
Sinisiklot-siklot niya sa palad ang isang kahel.

Bawat silid na kaniyang lampasan ay may abalang
pumapanaw. Bawat isa ay buo ang konsentrasyon

sa mangkok ng mga prutas na hindi na matiyak
ng mata kung tunay o plastik o pinta

ngunit sa sulok na iyon ay unti-unting nalulusaw,
lumiligwak sa lamesitang wari ding nalulusaw.

Umaabót ang ulirat sa mapipiga
ngunit lalo lamang lumalapot ang lagkit sa lalamunan.

Hindi naman nagmamadali ang sumisipol-sipol sa pasilyo.
Kay lamig ng kahel nang sa palad ay mapirmi.

Value of Still Life

Someone was whistling in the quiet hallway.
In his palm, he was sculpting an orange.

In every room he passed by, somebody was busy
dying. Everyone’s concentration was directed

on a bowl of fruits the naked eye
could not discern as real or plastic or paint

but in that corner it was slowly dissolving,
spilling on a small table that seemed to dissolve too.

Consciousness reached up to what can be squeezed
but the phlegm in the throat only became more viscous.

That someone whistling in the hallway was not in a hurry
How cold the orange when encased in the palm.

Even in "Pessoa, Pessoa", the reader cannot escape emulating the "message" of the Filipino poet channeling the Portuguese poet in the final couplet.

Nilisan nya kaming nahanap ang sadya
ngunit tuloy sa paghalukuya.

He left us alone who have found what we were looking for
and yet we are still excavating. 

The reader was almost sure he found the meaning behind Pessoa's notebooks, but he could not help but dig more. More.

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