Monday, May 07, 2012

Spring 2012 ... a new start (?)

May moonlight
on her flowered skirt
my mother

monsoon wind
on the poor man’s back
his pregnant wife

spring equinox
the wide empty half
of my bed

early spring breeze
in the shed a gathering
of wildflower seeds

April cloud
balls of dandelion fluff
and no wind

late spring
my long drive to work
pierces the mist
plum blossoms
the chatter of magpies
lulls me to sleep

birdsong ...
near the riverbank, a child
inside its mother

young oak leaves
and yesterday’s birthday

beach sand ...
we both walk away
from our divorce

I originally thought of submitting this for publication, but certain factors turned me off (that's being direct, yes) so I just decided to put them here.  The last 4 to 5 years have been busy, but also heavy.  'Sorrows of the Chameleon' won't have anything coming after it for now, but who knows what a few haiku and tanka can do, just like last time.  At least I know I won't be returning to Square 1.

Monday, November 10, 2008

For the MET > Autumn 2008

a bouquet
of home-grown peonies
on my table
my husband’s letters
to his mistress

that music
makes me get up and
like everything else
something I do alone

looking at
a painting of the sky
by van Gogh
its wild comets and stars
staring out of my eyes

lurking amid
a pile of war rubble
blades of grass
who knows how many
lie nameless beneath

one summer
during a day moon
you will watch
me turn into a butterfly
and greet the evening

half a minute
before it reaches the ground
a falling leaf
as I fold my clothes
prior to departure

a tanka a day
a famous writer recommends
I pause
to search for meanings
in buttons and keyholes

at the hospital
the final diagnosis …
he sighs
in genuine relief
it’s not his uterus

my Yahoo mailbox
the same list
of unopened mail
… the ads look interesting

she offers
to read my palm
as always
my life and love lines
barely discernible

I miss you
and cry sometimes
banana tree
how the monsoon wind
blows me further away

At the Beach at Nieuw Haamstede, Zeeland

wild bulls
on Hellegatsplein
their shadows tatooed
onto the afternoon

scent of honeysuckle
coming from the dunes
across the islands
where the beams of
two lighthouses meet

two young girls
at the water’s edge
wet their feet
just enough of the ocean
to moisten the evening

taking home
some sand grains
and verses
I have forgotten

how you left me

My contributions to the Autumn 2008 edition of Modern English Tanka. The start of the schoolyear has been rather difficult under the shadow of an impending reorganization. To relieve my inability to string up verses, I have taken up painting. Honestly, though, I cannot rest until I have found a second job. Easier dreamed of than done. The tanka above were written within a space of some five months, some more easily than others. Now, it's a mad race on towards the year-end holidays ... and perhaps, hopefully, a short break.

Monday, July 28, 2008

On The Road

Utrecht is pouting
this tedious morning.
I drive on its lower lip
puckered with traffic.
Further north, curving,
the A1 is an eyebrow
leading to the eye,
Amsterdam and its ring,
with its old harbour,
nose clogged with fumes.

The Heuvelrug
humps its back.
I ride its measured waves
valley in, hill out,
past the eyelashes
of speed cameras,
the spine of the A27
stretching further south,
its tip curving into Breda,
medieval city of kings.

Leaving Rotterdam later,
I snake into the A29,
the knots of two highways
and twelve hours of work
loosening behind me,
as I cruise and review
the hours, the distances,
eager for sunrise,
another day giftwrapped

in asphalt ribbons.

Two more weeks of the summer, and then, ready or not, it's back on the road and to work. Seriously speaking, of course I'll be ready. These two weeks to go will nevertheless remain a treat, for sure.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

For the MET > Summer 2008

the memory
of my old friend Elisabeth
and her dandelions ...
I was a penniless orphan
she was a liberal blond

if I had
even only one sister
you and I
know that would have been
enough for a pillow fight

sewing a button
onto an old shirt
all this time
the persistent need
to make ends meet

my husband
of fifty-six years ...
the women
still turn their heads
and ignore me

I sit and look
at a picture of me
as a twelve-year-old
something nudges me
to draw fangs on it

by tomorrow
someone will have asked me
how my day went --
my chemotherapy session
and the divorce papers

spring evening ...
what if I fall asleep like
my grandmother
with my glasses on
the gas pipes still open

crescent moon
high behind the basilica
the iron cross
bright with two spotlights
which turn off at midnight

right here
my gifts are wrapped
and ready
your seeing-eye dog sniffs
and barks at hidden candy

My contributions to the Summer 2008 edition of Modern English Tanka, the issues of which I regularly browse through. If I am not mistaken, these were written within a space of six hours, at a fairly leisurely pace. It was one of those evenings when I felt overwhelmed by verses and needed to nail them down on the flatscreen of my laptop before they sailed on to other shores. That also happened to be one of the very last evenings of peace before the weeks of overtime that followed. Not that I regret working (fabulous job, good pay). It's the lack of time to write that can be a damper.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Stars ...

March storm
Aldebaran hides
behind clouds

evening star
even in deep sleep
I see it

northern sky
my husband and I
connect the dots

on an empty beach
they gaze back

through the bare trees
passing mist

falling stars
so many wishes
before I retire

shooting stars
... fifty points
if I see one?

My contributions to the March 2008 haiku thread of the online journal Sketchbook -- . This was a troubled evening at the end of a troubled 1-1/2 weeks, and the poems came after I had made a difficult career-related decision.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Moods of a March Evening


Listening to a song
that was a favourite
before I wrote my poems –
how different it is now!
Running through a field,
aura scattered carelessly,
wet grass between my toes,

I watch the sun turn west
right there behind the hills,
its spheres lingering behind
on a tray of cake and wine,
on a statue of a mother and child,
in the bass of a bullfrog –
the dying sounds of sunset.


Here, amid this rubble,
this unsorted pile of bills,
memoranda, greeting cards,
here is where I will write,
on this table, heavy and firm.
This is the cave, the wall,
where I will leave a handprint,
mine, in ochre,
burnt red at the edges.
In the flickering shadows
of the dying fire
you will feel me breathing,
moving, fingerpainting.
Near my hand you will see
bison, wild boar, mammoth,
the caveman’s verses,
the shaman’s prayers,
odes to the bow, the spear,
the sabre-toothed tiger.
On the rough surfaces
of the impenetrable rock,
on this wide plasma screen,
I will not colour by numbers.


This March evening
even the snow is in bloom;
wild white petals drift down,
coating all in weightlessness,
evening sticks out its tongue
to catch the wings of flakes,
a chameleon in a coat

of sandalwood smoke.

Wrote this in March 2007, in stages. My book, Sorrows of the Chameleon, had just been published, and I was still on a roll.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Atlas Poetica - Spring 2008 contributions

along the road
the gentle whisper
of wild grass
still he wonders why
the women leave him

walking along
Breda's cobbled streets,
musing ...
far away in Amsterdam
a woman awaits my husband

in the Veluwe
rumours of the hunt ...
warthog tribes

snouts pressed to the ground
warpaint on their hooves

after two days
at the orphanage
I died
then lived through
five more lives

this is still
the metropolis of
my youth
when my stepmother scolded
and called me dirty names

The original of this next one was written in Filipino, after news of yet another landslide in The Philippines. The English version is not a literal, but a figurative translation, although some of the words match: gubat = forest, bayan = country, nakalublob = buried.

ang gubat
ay wala na ...
sa putik
ang ating bayan

the forest
is no more ...
the land
has buried itself
in its own clay

These tanka were published in the first issue of Atlas Poetica, Number 1, Spring 2008. I'm rather proud of them, especially considering the fact that all of them were written very quickly and spontaneously. Thanks a lot, Mr. Kei!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Book Review - Sorrows of the Chameleon

KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson
The Philippine Star - Monday, March 3, 2008
Immigrant verses

Let's continue where we left off a fortnight ago, with omnibus reviews of poetry books we received all of last year. Consider this the third part of the series. Ella Wagemakers of Holland sent her first poetry collection early enough in 2007, titled Sorrows of the Chameleon. The book was printed in the US by Xlibris Corporation (

All of 136 pages in lovely off-white paper, the collection includes poems previously published in various e-zines, such as the Philippine e-zine Dalityapi / Makata which comes out monthly.

Interesting inclusions are several haiku, senryu, tanka, and a haibun,which combines haiku with travel-bound prose. These Japanese poetic forms are always good venues for literary exercises and manifestations of discipline. Wagemakers succeeds in transposing her expatriate Filipina verses in English into exhalations of the eye, as a sigh of an insight.

In "Moon Haiku," for instance, the two-part series of 11 haiku heightens towards the end of the first part, with: "moon rising/ looking for the face/ that looks like me// bearded moon/ even your dark side sleeps/ in winter" Then the parallel culmination or closure is applied just as adeptly: "winter moon/ on a bed of clouds/ ... owl feathers// the moon/ in duckpond water/ choked by reeds// eve of the storm/ black clouds stain/ the full moon// in the park/ moon gathering/ the poets" One absorbs the imagery as reflective of a foreigner's ambivalence of inclusion in a strange new habitat, inclusive of the curious regard for a fellow habitue. Thus she also adopts the motif of the chameleon, referencing "flexibility of disguise to the ability of people to adapt to their situations."

Born in Manila, Ella moved to The Netherlands in 1988 and became a Dutch citizen in 1993. She currently teaches English full-time at the Dutch Police Academy. I first met her in Chicago in 2003, at an AWP (American Writers & Publishers) convention attended by many expatriate Filipino poets and Fil-Am writers. A year or so later, in between poetry reading gigs in Antwerp and Rotterdam, I hooked up with Ella and her husband Adrian in Leiden, and they took me on a scenic tour of windmill country.

Last August, she visited Manila with Adrian, so we had quite a pleasant reunion, marked by recollections of homegrown mutations of weed in and around Amsterdam, as well as my lament on the sorry stuff we have. Conversely, our poetry remains dynamic, bolstered by such poetry books as this debut by Ella.

Of her first book (written in Dutch) that was a tracing of the genealogy of the Wagemakers family, Ella produces a fine haibun: "I go back in time to 1611, the year the church in Meer started keeping records. Again, I move forward from year to year, and from village to village. The sun changes position several times before I stop. Her name tells me she is nobody, and she is nowhere to be found..." Then the incorporated haiku: "a woman's shadow/ walks by the well—/ there is no echo."

There are three poems in Filipino in this collection that is as much a gentle cri di coeur as a soft ululation. "Paakyat akong hinila/ ng hinihingal na hagdanan.// Bukas-palad na naghintay/ ang malinis na silid-tulugan.// Ngiting mainit ang salubong/ ng ilaw sa tabi ng higaan.//Malambing ang haplos/ ng kumot at mga unan.// Walang tutol kong hinubad/ ang sama ng loob ng araw." (from "Ikalima ng Hapon")

Ella Wagemakers' poetry is chameleon-like, indeed, a necessary stance vis-a-vis globalization. Her mild sorrows are also universal, however acutely personal, and thus charming with its many skins and colors of privacy. I look forward to more of her delicate poetry.

A review on my book, Sorrows of the Chameleon, by writer / professor / critic Alfred A. Yuson, known popularly as Krip. A very likeable character with his own sorrows. It is an honour to be mentioned by him, anywhere.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


200 islands
and you are not on
any one of them

my boat
from island to island
a leaf on the water

Published online at . It's been a busy five weeks, with five more to go before my three-week break. Gabi's sites like this one often give me unexpected ideas and offer me priceless moments of relaxation. A few minutes from now, I'll be returning to work -- Sunday overtime, filling in evaluation forms for my police cadets (students).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mount Utsu

Mount Utsu
even the old men
had lovers

steep mountain
on the road a cart
loses a wheel

late autumn
a cold wind pushes me
up the mountain

mountain wind
my clothes and my skin
become one

steep mountain
at the top perhaps
two stars

Published today at one of Gabi Greve's blogspots - . Mountains, temples and tea count as favourite haiku topics of mine, perhaps because all three have something to do with the act (art?) of contemplation.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cuttings - 1

We hear that he still goes to work
with his jeep, his shoes
and all of his eighty-odd years.
I stopped writing him years ago,
his last card still in its envelop.
This is how I want it – no creases,
no liana vines or loose shoelaces.
Nagtatampo siya, they’ve told me,
a remark I’ve since tried to ignore.
If we meet at a party I’ll sit
at another table with five strangers.
No one will ask if we’re related,
or if I knew his wife, who managed
her own private stock exchange.
Afterwards we’ll stroll in Mabini,
I’ll play the bargirl he called me,

and ask my husband for money.

The first of several parts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Post-Valentine's Day

soft music
as you stand near the door
I pour us some drinks and
wonder what lies you'll tell me

The 14th of February has become so commercial, everyone celebrating it has become almost predictable; and to think this had never been part of original Dutch culture. On the other hand, how else to call a day of customized romance ... Ella the Cynic