Poetry: El Niño & A Three-Day Retreat in the Hills in Malaybalay by Arlene Yandug
Arlene Yandug earned her PhD in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She teaches literature and creative writing at Xavier University where she also works as manager of XU Press and editor of Carayan, an online literary journal. She is currently editing an anthology of writers from Northern Mindanao, while working on her manuscript for her first poetry collection.
(After Philip Schultz)
The hours were endless suns on our skin, on jaundiced leaves.
On the door jamb were notches of my height.
On the walls, my sister’s name, written in reverse
for the mirror to read. Flies descended
on the silence like random dots. I warn you,
this is not about the door, nor about my sister,
nor my mother. But there’s something about the garden
of absent flowers. The frangipani tree, it was always there,
thriving in neglect. Everyday my sister and I climbed its branches,
watched flowers drift from their world to ours. In the backyard,
one or two sparrows would peck at the tips of petals
while our last hen scratched the ground blindly, her eyes
covered with crusts. “She lacks vitamin A,” father said
as he put the Nutriplex beside the Laughing Buddha.
But really this is not about the hen, so forget it. I am talking
about the endless suns, how they seeped through jaundiced leaves,
our skin, our hair, while mother kept spooning us with syrup.
God what is it, what is it about that summer?
Is it the cracked ground? How the eerie quiet
of noon made me think of a concept like universe
and what it meant to be there? So there.
And now going back to the hen.
Yes, she’d cackle weakly,
a soft cry in the blistering white of noon…. I remember one
or two feathers floating from a small pit in the backyard
where father carefully put the soil back while the sun,
the sun just gave down all the light.
A Three-Day Retreat in the Hills
July, but up here
it’s always December.
In the ice-blue silence
we drink the restfulness
of stones lying
in soft loam;
breathe the details
In the ice-blue silence
the phones lie
like June bugs
in a box.
A woman is suddenly
sick with vertigo.
Does the mind see
what’s no longer there?
The sudden calm making
the inner eye dizzy,
ears turning deaf
from too much quiet?
Here is a world
pure as a dot.
of spoons against cups.
No rumbling of trucks.
Only stones whispering
But the earth is merely
In the dark beyond
the mind’s orbit,
it’s hurtling in space,
cattle ranches slide
away from the pines
On the slopes, the monks’
coffees draw strength
from the black earth.
under the moonlight, their
tassels busy growing
And then today, the third day,
the bright glissando
of voices shatters
the glass night.
The vertigo woman
with a boy in the hall.
Some play charade,
others play the piano;
all play laughter
like an old game
we’ll switch on
our phones and head
for the world,
old as the hills,
young as the grass.
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