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).