Sunday, January 8, 2017

Poems Eligible for a Rhysling (Part 3)


On Friday, I posted a list of my 2016 speculative poems that are eligible for a Rhysling Award. Of those poems, these are the ones that appeared only in print in Popcorn Press's Halloween anthology Lupine Lunes: Horror Poems & Short Stories. Available at the press and also on Amazon.

This first poem has to do with the aswang: a mythical Philippine monster. The specific kind of aswang featured here is the manananggal, a woman who can sever herself at the waist: the top half grows wings so she can fly in search of prey, leaving her bottom half wherever it is standing when she transforms out of her human-appearing form.

Encounter on Good Friday
— Cutud Village, north of Manila, 1936
On his straw mat, his banig, under the inky susurrus
of the mosquito net hung from the walls of his nipa hut,

a bachelor farmer named Santiago de la Cruz lounges half asleep,
half dreaming of the Easter sunrise mass day after tomorrow

and of today’s penitentes flogging their own backs into bloody
crosshatch, a couple crucified for a handful of long minutes.

Tiyago gazes up toward the now charcoal-tinged underside
of his thatched palm-leaf roof and starts at an indistinct

shadow above, shaped darkly like a crucified person. What?
Tiyago rolls out of the net and fixes his eyes above. Yes,

there is something there in the pitch black. Wait, is it
a dark brown woman with her arms outstretched, gripping

the almost invisible bamboo supports of the roof? A ghost?
A hallucination? Tiyago rubs his eyes and looks again. Her eyes

are dark red like dying coals. He crosses himself quickly,
notices a rippling behind her like a mourning-dress curtain.

Susmariosep, Tiyago whispers, she got wings like a bat!
He slowly realizes there is nothing below her waist

but a few brackish red loops of, what, guts, torn intestines?
Wait, it’s not a whole figure. She has no legs. No legs!

O my Jesus, an aswang . . . putang ina, she’s a mananananggal!
The aswang smiles, teeth a dingy slate gray, and from her mouth

slips a dingy blood-red thing like a snake or maybe more like
a thick dark earthworm that writhes wildly, closer and closer

to Tiyago. It’s her tongue, a ten-foot-long tongue.
Hold on, she’s trying to suck my blood, the black harpy!

He clenches his arms, his fists, shuts his eyes hard.
The aswang’s tongue slinks, inches, nearer to his neck.

His body in the shadowy center of the room seems to sprout
fur, arms and legs thinning and crackling into wolf-like limbs.

Tiyago is growing taller and bulkier, T-shirt and boxers
ripping apart like tissue. He growls, dark yellowish fangs

flashing out of the lengthening snout of his face. Tiyago
is also an aswang, a shapeshifter churning into a huge

black dog, larger than a man, standing wide on hind legs.
The two monsters growl and snarl at each other, a tableau

carved into the dusky sweaty air of the room. Then it stops.
Both of them laugh, they snicker and snort, convulse in dark

shrieks and screams of black humor. The manananggal pulls in
her slimy tongue, waves at Tiyago, and swoops out of the window,

her pterodactyl wings sighing velvety tik-tik, wak-wak sounds.
Tiyago lifts his noble black head to the heavens and howls.

— Vince Gotera, Lupine Lunes: Horror
Poems & Short Stories (Popcorn Press)

In this next poem, the two aswang from the last poem have fallen in love. Clara, the manananggal, has been under suspicion by her fellow villagers of being an aswang. One night, they attack — almost like in the first Frankenstein movie, when people with torches and pitchforks hunt Boris Karloff's character. Santiago, the shapeshifting farmer from the previous poem, changes into his aswang form to rescue Clara.

Villagers at Clara’s House, After Dark
— hay(na)ku
Ay, dios ko,
malaking aso!
Giant

black dog attacked,
rabid, rending . . .
Aswang!

. . . jumping up toward
our necks,
faces.

Threw our torches,
bright fangs.
Aswang!

Swung bolos against
black fur,
useless.

Guns, no good,
too fast.
Aswang!

We scattered, scared
for our
lives.

Next day, Clara
was gone.
Aswang!

— Vince Gotera, Lupine Lunes: Horror
Poems & Short Stories (Popcorn Press)

In case you weren't able to figure it out from the context, the opening sentence of the previous poem, "Ay, dios ko, malaking aso!" means, in Tagalog, "Oh my god, a huge dog!"

Aswang Wedding: Early Saturday Morn

The aswang lovers held each other’s hand,
kneeling at the teakwood communion rail
of La Iglesia de San Agustin,

the simple granite-walled Spanish chapel
not far from the shores of Manila Bay.
Heads lowered, the humble country couple

waited while the parish priest, Padre Rey,
drowsy, wished he was asleep in his bed.
Raising his hand he droned, In nomine

Patris et Filii . . . Dawn, a faint red,
kindled stained glass the deep dark shade of blood
draining from a body torn and shredded.

Rings, sign of the cross, yes, but Padre would
later tell how his heart sank at the end:
fangs glinting in the bride’s smile, the groom’s mouth.

— Vince Gotera, Lupine Lunes: Horror
Poems & Short Stories (Popcorn Press)

The three poems above are part of my novella-in-poems, currently in progress, telling the story of these two aswang in their attempt to live a normal life — normal if one is a human, that is. After marrying, Santiago and Clara emigrate to the US, feeling they won't be persecuted there because most Americans don't know about aswang.

In this next poem, the priest is not the same priest in the wedding poem directly above. Some readers have thought they were the same person, perhaps because in Lupine Lunes, these two poems are next to each other.

The Good Father

The folks at St. Mary’s Church thought well of their priest, Father
Joseph Paolo. Every Sunday, after each of the masses, he would
stand in the narthex and greet every person, shaking their hands,
while above in the tower, the church bells would sonorously ring.
The parishioners often recalled, our last priest would be damned
rather than greet anyone. Father Joe was at his best with weddings,

so friendly, so accommodating, so gracious, and each wedding
couple felt genuinely special. Yup, no one better than Father,
everyone always said. But Father Joe had a secret so damning
some days he could hardly believe his vocation. His secret would
send him to hell, he frequently thought, to the deepest, darkest ring
of the Inferno. Sometimes, unable to sleep at night, his hands

would burn and sting, and he wondered how his flock’s hands
couldn’t feel the hot guilt in his grip. Every week, on Wednesday
evenings, he would hold Bible Study and his voice would ring
with authority and wonder, but inside his soul, he’d feel farther
than ever from God. And truth. Because his own truth would
keep him exiled forever from heaven. His secret? He’d damned

someone to hell. Not just someone, his beloved. She was damned
to perdition as if he had killed her, body and soul, with his own hands.
In his last year of college, Joe Paolo had fallen in love. He was just wild
about Francesca. And she adored him. Often they talked about a wedding:
a silver dress, champagne, a four-tiered cake. Joe even went to her father
and asked for Francesca’s hand—truly old-fashioned. He bought a ring,

a lovely one with three diamonds, got down on one knee, and put the ring
on her finger. But Joe got scared. And ran. Ran all the way to the damn
seminary. And Francesca hanged herself. Even after he became a Father,
Joe never told anyone, not even during confession. He ached for her hands
to give him absolution, cool water from God’s font. With every wedding
he hoped for peace. Then, one evening in the church, she came. It wouldn’t

be as he thought: Francesca floating above, in a silvery gown, and she would
forgive him. No. She appeared as an angry ghost in the dark chancel, ringed
by fire, glowing chains of molten iron holding her down, apparition wedded
to blackness and stinking filth, the smoke-heavy shrieking of the damned
wafting around her. Francesca was whispering. She held out flaming hands
and beckoned. Come to me, come to me. He fell to his knees, the poor Father.

That night Father Paolo felt the closest ever to being eternally damned:
an imprint appeared up on the cross, a woman’s hand burned into the wood,
sweet Francesca’s softest caress, with an unburned gap for a wedding ring.

— Vince Gotera, Lupine Lunes: Horror
Poems & Short Stories (Popcorn Press)

Apropos of the next poem, I hope there won't be a full moon during the upcoming Presidential inauguration.

Lupine Lunes, Starring Donald Trump

Donald Trump, werewolf,
turns in wash of moonlight,
presidential, with fangs.

Donald Trump sprouts
wolf fur in tailored shirt,
fresh from China.

Donald Trump’s canines
glow like radioactive little fingers,
fluorescent plastic teeth.

Donald Trump’s tail
wags while he whines, howls
at harvest moon.

Donald Trump: “I’m
The most handsome werewolf ever,
believe me. Handsomest!”

Donald Trump’s paws
fumble in the voting booth,
no opposable thumbs.


“Donald Trump, President.
And also Wolfman, so what?
Everyone loves me.”
                               
"Here's Donny," Daily Mail, 16 October 2015

— Vince Gotera, Lupine Lunes: Horror
Poems & Short Stories (Popcorn Press)

I got the idea for this poem from the anthology's title "Lupine Lunes," announced in the book's call for submissions of poetry and fiction. The phrase is a truly witty title by the editor, Lester Smith, founder and editor of Popcorn Press, because of course werewolves are turned by the moon — la lune in French — when full. "Lune" is also the name of a poetic form, invented by Jack Collom: a three-line stanza with three words in line 1, five words in line 2, and three words in line 3.

Friends, do check out Popcorn Press. For a number of years now, Lester Smith and the press have published a Halloween anthology. Always fun. Popcorn Press has published many wonderful collections and anthologies. And pick up a copy of Lupine Lunes at the press or on Amazon.


Won’t you comment, please? Love to know what you’re thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don’t find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   

If you got here from my list of Rhysling-eligible
poems, please click here to go back to the list.



 
P.S. I just realized today (11 May 2017) that I left a poem off.

All Zombies, Coming and Going
—  a somersault abecedarian ...
read first down left column
and then down right column
same words, new punctuation
All
Bury
Caskets.
Doom’s
Exhausted.
Forever
Green
Horrific
Inside
Jujubes
Kissing
Lips,
Miniature,
Never
Oblique.
Plan
Quiet
Reveries,
Secure
Trees.
Under
Visible
Wound,
eXit
Your
Zipper.
                    Zipper
Your
eXit
Wound,
Visible
Under
Trees’
Secure
Reveries,
Quiet.
Plan
Oblique
Never
Miniature
Lips
Kissing
Jujubes
Inside
Horrific
Green.
Forever
Exhausted,
Doom's
Caskets
Bury
All.

— Vince Gotera, Lupine Lunes: Horror
Poems & Short Stories (Popcorn Press)

(Added 11 May 2017)

3 comments:

Lester Smith said...

I hope you won't mind my noting that while Jack Collom popularized the three/five/three version of the lune, he actually misremembered it from Robert Kelly's original invention, which was five/three/five syllables. Cheers!

Vince Gotera said...

Yes, I knew that, Lester. And I perhaps should have pointed that out. I do like Jack Collom's version of the form since you can breathe a little more in it. Thanks for coming by!

Vicki Acquah said...

Saw your poem on my Facebook page I re-posted it..very funny.

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