Encountering Snake

A sudden hiss on the grass
and there she was – her eyes

plumbing the pit of my fear,
her tongue — like jealousy — licking

the distance between us. My fingers gripped
the hoe’s handle, and a whiz whipped

through the air; then, a thud muted
whatever she wanted to portend; not

even a faint moan seeped
from her mouth. My knees trembled

as my eyes cast a final kiss on her
broken skull.

hingalo

No, Allos, Your Words are not Dry as the Grass is

		

Here, here the tomb of Bulosan is,
Here, here are his words, dry as the grass is.
-	Carlos Bulosan, “Epitaph”


Because dry grass easily blazes
	to a light kiss of fire,
and its ember quickly turns to ash,

No, Allos, your words are not dry
	as the grass is; they are the lullaby
of  the rivers and rice fields of Mangusmana
that cuddles  the joy of your innocence –
a memory that parries the assault of winter.

No, Allos, your words are not dry
	as the grass is; they are the laughter
of the hills and plains of America,
green splendor that caresses your back
when fatigue and sadness assail
the plantations of apple, peas, and asparagus.

No, Allos, your words are not dry
	as the grass is; they are the elegy
of our anguish and rage, a peal of poem
amidst hunger and terror, a cataract
of blood flowing through our hope and dream.

No, Allos, your words are not dry
	as the grass is; for

when did the poem and heart
of  the people’s poet ever run dry? when 
did the desire and hope for the birthing 
of a new world ever run dry? 

i stopped and stood still

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.