PAOLO MANALO
Chora (Kristeva) | The First Time | Operating Room | Everlasting | Already | Still Life | Habeas Corpus | The Trying Hards
Chora (Kristeva)

Things started out this way.

Tapos naging ganito.

Paraluman, it used to meaning something before.

Dati na tayong ganito.

Then we were fined.

O dapat ba found, di ko na maalala.

Malala na, basta they said, “Ganito.”

Sabi nila babae raw.

Talks to herself when no one’s looking.

Pero may babae pa bang nakukuha sa tingin.

‘No one’ is always looking.

Hard to trust when there are no images.

Kung ang nagsasalita babae, bakit siya nagsasalita.

Why, she was asked to stand in the nothing.

Nagsasalita ng ganito.

Crosses her t’s the way she crosses her legs.

Kita iyon kahit hindi pa sabihin.

Who was taught to say how to undress.

Binibihisan ang pagwawalang-bahala.

In the dark they thought that was English.

Pagwawala lang.







The First Time


Someone’s lips pressed against the window.
On the opposite side, another pair
Pressing back.

The ‘I’ wants to know if this is kissing.

If the smudged outline is proof
That someone is cheating.
Can the ‘I’ tell?

Awake at night the ‘I’ wants to kiss
The glass. The kisses
Playing both sides

While my story is being told.
My first kiss: a guy and a girl
Named Tricia, by a checkout counter.
And I was but a little boy.

When he said her name
She wasn’t sure it was hers
Until their lips met, Tricia.

No space for doubt.
I wanted that kiss

And the gentle sensations
That came when
		     the lovers
Mouthed the words that meant
They were together, Tricia

The ‘I’ has a friend who dated a Tricia, but
It’s too small a world to be her.







Operating Room


The man is ahead of schedule
Standing there by the set

Which has yet to be made.
He has his watch—

It tells him when
To start paying attention

—set ten minutes in advance
While geometrical shapes are drawn

Further into clarity: 
The voice about to say

“It’s a boy.”
…and yet someone was

Introduced
Painfully earlier

Whose hands—surprise!—turn up
From behind the man.

The fact is time cannot be
Explained to the patient:

Meeting, Father
The first time.








Everlasting


First the jarring air
Collects
Into distraction.
From there

A trauma ward
To put in the story.
Inside, the pain
Had a backdrop: a body

Placed in bed
Was called for a dying
Breath, in which
The need is grave.

So the beauty of these
Had something to lie with,
To hang on
A death scent as the slowly

Is watched for
In the half-light—
As though in a vase
Awaiting a spill.








Already


The estranged wife wakened by the present tense
Wakens

Where the shirts were.
Curiously,

	       the shirts are
Tossed where she will find them.
She always finds them

	—her husband, his mistress—

Reasons to be together.
Headaches. Because
She is younger . . .

And she—the wife—suggests meetings
Where there were none

Meaning well
When someone asks
Did she know . . . “Does she know?”

		     “Overtime.”
“She knows.”
It is when they find out themselves
Found out

	—husband and mistress—

That their story ceases to be their story.
When it is told, really,

‘What’ is said of them.







Still Life


Beautiful is the vase
Then someone put roses in it.






Habeas Corpus

Passing for human
They learn to make mistakes and

When no one’s looking
The fear of being watched.

Passing in nomine . . .
They fear themselves
In themselves.










The Trying Hards


The girls made to cry
For their father’s death

To mean
He was not mean, he

Was a good person
Yeah, they know how good.

And this is not acting. They cry
Real cries, but where the tears?

Handkerchiefs, to show 
Grief best heard unseen.