Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 27 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day


Day 33 — 3·3·3 — THREE CUBED. Prompts — Maureen Thorson: "nursery rhyme or clapping rhyme" — Robert Lee Brewer: "The Trouble Is ________" as a title — Andrea Boltwood: pantoum. Too bad each of them didn't give three prompts; then I could have said "THREE POETS CUBED."

Today, I'm taking on Andrea's suggestion of a pantoum. But first, some back story. Twenty days ago, I posted a poem titled "Black Encounter on the Eve of Easter" which deals with aswang, those Philippine monsters who have so many avatars: vampire, ghoul, shapeshifter, and more. Those of you familiar with my aswang work (both in poems and in illustration) know that my favorite is the manananggal, a woman who breaks herself apart at the waist and whose top half then grows wings to fly. The following poem is a response to that earlier NaPoWriMo poem . . . you might want to take a look at that one before reading this. In the comments to that Day 7 post, I had bantered with readers about the possibility this might be a love story in the offing, and perhaps today's poem below may be the start of that story. We'll see.

How the Aswang met Jesús on the Eve of Easter
— in Cutud Village, north of Manila, 1921
(a reply to "Black Encounter on the Eve of Easter")
So there's Jesús de los Santos in his bedroom, sleeping.
I've been watching Jesús from a distance for many days,
so handsome, his black hair glowing in the sunlight
when I would see him at market selling his vegetables.

I've been watching Jesús from a distance for many days,
and tonight I decided I would visit him, see him at home,
and not just when he's at market selling his vegetables.
So I split my body, breaking in half as usual at the waist,

since tonight I decided I would visit him, see him at home.
I stood in my bedroom, slowly unfurling wet black wings
as I split my body, ripping in half painfully at the waist.
Then I looked towards the wide beautiful moon, so free

after long minutes in my room, unfurling my wet wings.
I launched myself into night air and headed into the sky,
then flew towards Jesús’s house, so beautiful, so free.
The village was lovely, candle lamps glowing in windows.

I turned down toward the earth, falling out of the sky
and alighted gently, so gently, on his woven thatch roof.
His house was lovely, a lamp gleaming in his window.
I took care not to upset even the flame as I entered

and floated gently, so gently, up near the woven roof.
Now I watch Jesús, his sweat glistening as he lies in bed.
I took care not to awaken or disturb him as I entered,
but now his eyes open, dark brown irises glowing.

I watch Jesús, keeping very still, as he stirs in bed.
I stay as still as I can, my wings softly fluttering.
His eyes are open and staring, brown irises growing.
And then I see he has spotted me. He can see me.

I stay as still as I can, slow my wings' fluttering.
From the way Jesús's brows knit, his arms tensed,
I know he has definitely spotted me. Can he see me
trying to blend into dark ceiling, blend into black?

Then his brows grow more black, his arms tensed
with spreading darkening fur, his teeth growing long.
I try to hide in the ceiling. His body grows black
and blacker — his body distorts into a giant wolf

with black fur, feet and hands clawed, his fangs long.
And then I realize the truth: we're both aswang!
We both start to laugh and laugh, this huge wolf
and I. Waving blithely to him, I turn to fly away.

This truth will open up our lives: we're both aswang.
He's so handsome, black fur glowing in the moonlight.
Knowing I will see him again, I turn to fly away.
And there's my Jesús, head up to the sky, howling.

—Draft by Vince Gotera     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about the pantoum, you might consult my article on pantoum form and history in the book An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art, edited by Annie Finch and Kathrine Varnes (Michigan, 2002). This is available at Google Books, but my article (page 254) is not displayed, alas.

No poem from Catherine yet. I'll post her poem for Day 27 when it's ready.

Our featured poem-a-day blog today is Susan's Poetry where Susan L. Chast has been very faithfully producing more than a poem a day during the month. This April is a crossroads for Susan who very recently retired and whose NaPoWriMo poems are the start of a new life in art and performance. I particularly like Susan's "Nursery Medley" for today: a light-hearted "zombies and vampires" reboot of classic nursery rhymes. Take a peek . . . you'll be charmed.


Okay, three days to go, friends. Please leave a comment below. Also, do go back a day to see the sixth-graders' NaPoWriMo site I featured yesterday. Ingat.




Added 4/30/12: Everyone, here's Catherine's poem for Day 27. She'd like the sixth graders of Griffin Lit to know that she was inspired by them and their Day 30 prompt to imitate George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" poem to write this one. Wonderful, Catherine! And great for you, Griffin Lit kids, you inspired another poet!

Where I’m From
— after George Ella Lyon
I am from the red dirt seat of cut-off jeans,
from Hostess Ham on weeknights
always served with quarts of green beans,
mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese.

I am from an out of plumb, white house,
birthplace of my daddy and his,
where falling rain on rusted tin
serenaded my crowded sleep.

I am from a creek full of salamanders,
almost climbed maple tree, sweet peas
picked while I dawdled to church,
wild violets gathered in tiny bunches.

I'm from guilt trips and tenacity,
from Lela's eyes and Philo's brains,
Pritchards I didn't meet.
I'm from old money and clogged arteries,

from don't slay the King's English,
hair like a stump full of Grandaddy's,
Hellfire and brimstone, Walking through
the valley of the shadow of death.

I am from The Queen City and Curtis's Creek,
egg sandwiches and thickened potatoes,
from my grandfather's crooked pinky
I tried to straighten and my father's lazy eye.

I am from the empty pages
of a third child's baby book,
hidden pictures of kinfolk in caskets,
from the milk table and milk glass
that survived the faces in page after page
of my black and white reflection.

—Draft by Catherine Pritchard Childress     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

POEM-A-DAY 2012 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


4 comments:

Susan said...

I had to look up "aswang" to fully appreciate the variety and prevalence of aswang stories in Philippine culture. Wow! This one haunts with its meeting of minds, not just a different point of view from the earlier poem.

Andrea Boltwood said...

And there's your poem, head up to the sky, howling! I love the answer to the original poem -- her answer in form was beautiful. I'd love to read and see some of your other aswang work. Where might I find it? :)

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, Andrea ... click on "aswang" below, in the labels/categories. Thanks for your interest! And thanks for the nice words about the pantoum.

Vince Gotera said...

Susan, sorry I took so long to reply. Yes, indeed ... "variety and prevalence," that's right. And not just in Philippine culture but among all Malaysian peoples. Thanks!

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