one morning, manong ang i
went to our swidden farm
to pick mushrooms.
“arm yourself with a stick,”
he commanded while demonstrating
how to whip right and left
when walking along grassy trails
to scare off snakes.
“but if by chance we encounter one
just hold your ground, and your guts
will send the snake flying in fright.”
when we reached the first bunch
of bushy bamboos, we saw a tudtud –
a worm-like snake, wiggling
its way around fallen leaves
and tiny blades of grass.
holding my breath,
i stood still at once.
when i looked at manong
he was just as small as a mushroom –
scampering amid the clouds of dust
his bare feet spewed out.
what ant on earth showed you the way
to the treasure i buried
beneath our bamboo stair?
not a faintest sound did escape when,
one by one, as fast as father’s whip,
i slipped my coins into the calumet can.
did the sweat of my palm betrayed itself?
day, i was a hen: scratching the earth,
pecking every grain
left to die in the scorching rice field.
night, i was a knight: dreaming of new armor
for a coming fight. yes, i would be wearing
a pair of new khaki shorts and white t-shirt, come june.
but that horrible morning, i found the jaw
of the indian warrior in my calumet can deformed.
the world swirled and i dashed off to the plaza;
there you stood, pretending not to notice me,
hands digging deep into your pockets.
as i stared at the dicer’s fingers raking in
my precious coins, i prayed hard to god:
may the earth swallow you alive, manong!