Monday, November 06, 2017

poems three

When I was ten, I found an old book with an inscription handwritten, addressed to my mom and dated before I was born: "you touch me/ in my most secret moments/ like a vagrant light/ and I am whole." Being an incorrigible show off, I performed the lines for a speech and drama class assignment even if "the fog comes on little cat feet" would have sufficed (undeterred, I unnecessarily performed Anthony's Oration later that year).

Anyway, the author was my dad. University professor by day, occasional poet by mood. He died when I was thirteen. The book was lost but a version of the poem for my mother was typed up along with his other poems and bound into an unpublished folio of sorts.

Happy birthday, Daddy!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

If Only

Gabriel U. Iglesias, no date
(circa mid to late 1970s?)

Maybe it's my imagination, but I think you were first writing about Marcos (slash the ruling oligarchs slash the authoritarian state) then at the end, you were speaking to yourself. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Coming of Age

This process of trying to know my father, who died in Mongolia when I was 13, is never-ending. Because he left this world when I was too young to befriend him, to debate and argue with him, to talk politics meaningfully, to ask for advice on what I should study or what to do with my career or life or kid. The last fatherly “advice” I remember was: no boyfriends until you graduate. 

A minority in a family of females, he is the posthumous butt of family jokes. Like the time in Baguio when he forgot to wear his dentures, stepped into the elevator while grinning at a colleague inside, clapped his hand over his mouth in realization, and ran back to our hotel room.

Or the time we spent hours waiting for him to change a flat tire, being stranded on the winding road to Taal Lake in Tagaytay. In fury, he finally kicked the damn thing and it obediently rolled off onto the ground.

In our family lore is the episode when he first returned from Caracas, weakened by his first major coronary a decade before his death. The flight crew brought him out in a wheelchair. On his lap was an enormous Snoopy, a gift for the baby in the family (me, before my position was usurped by our youngest). The absurd image of this larger-than-life man, juxtaposed with the frailty of a fluffy toy dog, was too much for my aunt to bear and she burst unconsolably into tears. This story always cracks us up when we recall it.

Once, I had to read some kind of poetry for my speech and drama class. Must have been eleven or so. Smart aleck that I was and having already exhausted my teacher’s patience by a theatrical Antony’s Oration the week before, I decided to elevate my Dad’s poetry to performance. I had found an inscription in some book, in Dad’s unmistakable scrawl, that said “You touch me, like a ray of light, in a darkened room. You touch me, and I am whole.” When I had the chance to talk to him, I asked if he had written it for Mom. Of course he did, he said, and sure, I could perform it if I wanted. I couldn’t tell if he was pleased by this paean to him. I’ve since lost the book with its yellowed pages and the pale blue ink of his words.

I have, however, found this and quite liked it.

In a few days, it’ll be 25 years since he died. And my son, “g.” after him, is growing into his own man. I suppose I would rather not really perceive the inner workings and name the demons that drove him. I don’t know if it would have mattered in the end if he really saw me for who I was—not just one of the kids, or the one who used to be the baby—or understood who I’ve become. Yet I hold on to a conceit that “I’m the one most like him”—a little diffuse, a bit too externally oriented, caught up with friends and the world outside, and its conflicts, and the realms of the written. Driven by demons in the wee hours of the night.

Some days, it seems that the sum total of who I am was always compelled by the need to win his approval after he died. To be the person that leaves the girl.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Umbad, Chocolatini, Einosk and Divehammie cogitate on the defining spirit of this moment in history.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Those of us that were broken

Those of us that were broken,
those of us that are a little less than whole,
will one day smile amid the fissures.

There is still music to be sung,
the melody in and of itself,
the words weightless.

We will blink in the sunlight,
and wonder at how the world
had become that much brighter
while we hadn’t noticed.

Oceans will open and 
bear us under the stars,
indifferent to the past.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

two poems about not love


When love is absent, where is it else?

When love is absent, where is it else?
Does it like a soul reincarnate?
Is it like energy transferred?
Will it as a phrase find new object?
When is its eternal return?
If it was, once, is it now not or never?
From once being, now nihilate?

Does pain like a cuckoo make its nest, feather it with hatred and bits of all things lost. 

All things considered only one is certain.


the midnight scab i keep picking at

the midnight scab i keep picking at
finding the right words to convey in full force
outrage humiliation frustration fear
sadness sadness sadness sadness
anger sadness anger sadness
they chase each other from the fore and to the recesses of my tired mind
if i write this a million times will they go away?

but never love
not ever

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

the cartography of love and not love is

the cartography of love and not love is--
temporal not spatial.
plotted by contrasts not absolutes.


the bliss of fecundity, the anticipation of immortality.
the pain of disease, the gravity of dissolution.
a single space that lies along a fold of time.

peace and conflict, home and battleground.

love and not love.

a function of when. but when?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I have often wondered what moved you to write this. Maybe the street children along President Quirino Avenue, as you drove home? What made you angrier? That you couldn't believe in redemption? Or that other people did? Wherever you are, Daddy, you have your answer. 

by Gabriel U. Iglesias