Eileen Tabios

FOUR CANTOS FROM “TRANCE ASCENT”

Canto 2
You there, musician
who cannot be embraced

You there, Song
struggling to be heard…!

In this city replete with paintings who have witnessed us both fail repeatedly to see each other, are you thinking of me while you and I have yet to know you and I? And when we finally meet, will you see me as familiar? Of course you will. And not just for mirroring the color of each other’s eyes. When we finally meet, why will you see me as familiar?

Canto 9
The most cutting of stings
from beasts who first cut

off their bramble-edged tails
which would announce them—

it may even be a beloved
Father proving his mortality.

After you say, “Do not be
afraid,” I feel, “Who are you?”

When a choir mates with organ
one makes out words, then not…

Perhaps there is an empty chair near where you pause in your wanderings. You shall see its space, the form it etches from space. Perhaps its geometry will be traversed by the gold track of a sunbeam, making you anticipate her poem about a chair whose expanse is the totality of a planet, still unexplored.

Canto 21
To write a poem
that makes a reader wish

to live for eternity
experiencing its poetry…

…I lower my gaze deliberately. I expose myself to the tension of traffic: its blaring horns, its jaywalkers, its illegal hawkers raising plastic handbags, its bicyclist grazing a shrieking matron, its truck driver raising a middle finger at a cab driver stuttering “Unbelievable! Un-be-liev-a-ble!” But beyond this jostling crowd is a glass door I shall open to a silver organza bag tied with a satin ribbon featuring “rosette enhancement.” Nestled within its tulle netting shall be Lindor truffles in “all available flavors: milk, dark, white, amaretto, hazelnut, peanut butter, and mint.”

Canto 27
Where rock splits
my eyes dived

for “through that little
I [see] stars grow larger”

Should we pause this expressionist brushstroke so I may ask: What can I do to break a certain pattern? What can I do to avoid the birth of regret in this space you and I have fashioned from moon, light, wind, sky, mules, paintings, rainbows, diamonds, chocolates, “aggressive speculation,” and the wings of six fallen angels? What can I do now that we shall never be strangers? You and I who know I even have trafficked with cruel men. You and I who know you prefer to brood (though I know not what the preference is against. Perhaps contentment? Is a poet ever content?). Look over there at yet another image I am brewing for you: do you see the mahogany side table gleaming with the sheen of sunlit sapphires? One of its four legs has rebelled. The wooden claw has released the ball it clutched for centuries. The claw has stretched its fingers to feel velvet on a rug woven by long-dead boys when only a thin cloth protected their limbs from a scorching sun. This rug of Joseph’s “many colors” where, someday, you gladly shall fall for another poem I shall lick against your skin. Within its text shall be the occasional word necessarily bitten into the most tender parts of your flesh. A poem that sears even as you shall gasp: “More…! Never…ever…stop…!”

EILEEN TABIOS has released 14 poetry collections, an art essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, and a short story book. Recipient of the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry, she most recently released The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I. (xPress(ed), Espoo, 2006). She performs poetics at her blog, “The Blind Chatelaine’s Poker Poetics” while steering the multidisciplinary publisher Meritage Press from St. Helena, CA.

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