Saturday, April 23, 2011



For some reason I asked a pebble this question:
Why your heft on my palm like the tug from a child

In the fair? The first drop of rain on the forehead?
The handwritten note? Your smoothness against the rush

Of sea is something my fingers have longed to touch.
Lately, mornings and evenings have been rough on me.

(Empathy towards a stone is an old ritual;
It takes practice to cipher grains of its surface

Some story that's less sad and jagged than the one
Found at a well's cold bottom. Or in a man’s chest.

I did not wait to hear a word from a pebble.
I stood silent as stone, holding on to what matters.


The outdoor garage was not yet done in the evening of 1993. After dinner, your family laughed that communal laughter. Being the youngest, you felt that they were scheming against you. You always thought things were about you, reason or without reason. Tantrum was your weapon of choice, so you dropped on the floor and flailed your arms, thrashed your legs, then cried louder than the screeches of a rock song playing on the radio.

You got their attention. When breaking things was not enough, you ran outside and stumbled on the rectangular plot of gravel near the garden, sharp edges digging into your palms and knees. Your father and mother pursued you, your brothers and sisters behind them. Your mother tried to talk you out of the unfolding drama, approaching you, when you hurled a piece of rock straight at her face. It was meant to be a warning of some sort but it was too late.

You could neither remember the faces nor the voices of anyone except for the blood. You remained crouching on the unfinished garage while your family ushered your mother back in the house. You were stunned at how small things could break the comfort of the night. Or someone like your mother. This time it was really about you. You cried for a reason. A few years later, you willed to hate the song playing on the radio that night.


Lighter than air, that’s
What we are, until we pick
Stones and pocket them.


We remember names by what we can recall, often for validity: stone for David, bear for Theodore, flowers for Rose, cats for Josie, guavas for Juan. Curious, but the grand scheme is simple: we name them in such ways because they seem appropriate, impeccably fit, something like You for Me. So apt is this union that I will brand our names on a stone and toss it in a lake, for in days like these one has to feel the depth of all things.


I have a guess and I believe in it
Since guesses are potent when trusted:
To think of strength with a piece of rock is
To blaspheme who is deemed the immutable one:
The Creator. The Grand Architect. The Master Builder.
A chip off a rock used to stone someone to death is ungodly.
Stoning could not bring a human back to dust. It’s not that easy.
In many anthologies, a lottery has recounted enough about it. Here’s
A confession: I could never cry on a rock. I have other things to lean on.


Summer, 2009. You left the beach and brought the pebble with you, leaving the place of the free, the municipality of La Libertad, Negros Oriental, to return to Dumaguete. But as the bus trudged on a tough dirt road, you saw chickens in a coop. The fowls were not free.

There was an engine problem. All of you had to get off the bus. You checked on a chicken and were surprised that it pecked on a little stone then swallowed it. You stepped back when a man behind you said the chicken had to do it. In your mind, you hated the word had.

“Chickens don’t have teeth.”
“And then?”
“They can’t chew. They even have to swallow more.”
“Yes, the stones go to their gullet and ground the grains for the stomach to digest.”

You stared in wonder at the feathered creature. Then you surmised the chickens could never be free: they were forever bound to stones to live. The man laughed at you and threw a handful of rice grains into the pen.


Tonight, under the dormant waters
in the backyard, no stones are turning,
their shadows remain heaped in their

usual spots. The pool is their lullaby,
the rainy month’s full moon their mother.
As a child I would not dare disturb

the stillness to pluck something glowing
in the waters, else the di-unato would pull
me into a world much different than ours.

Years pass but the small lake insists on its presence.
Beneath it the pebbles that we, brave brooding
kids of mornings past, have flung to see how

wonderful certain things move before our eyes,
until we grow up and notice the swaying of hips.
Or the arms one hopes to be embraced with.

Remarkable, how capable they are to resist
the nudge of time. Unlike us: children became
men who loved women who loved men who

loved other men. Even the mango
tree that looms at the far end bears fruits
already. A true sign of a golden age.

But overall this faithfulness and un-
faithfulness to time is a beautiful reminder:
The world spins, a butterfly takes flight.

See, the waters quiver with the stone I drop,
only to return to their oneness in seconds,
a mirror showing what constantly changes us.

No comments: