Despedida: Quezon City

Patrick Rosal


                        My gentle, drunken friends, so kind to me,
           my four bags, strained to the teeth, are now packed.
Check out how well I know your city. I’ll prove it

                        by my goodbyes… To Grotto Mary
           with birdshit brow, to boys of half-court flip-flop
runs, to checker game hustlers of Sikatuna,

                        to the single, slender ankle
           dangled from the jeepney, to the skeltered
treble of KTV saloons, farewell. To this family

                        asleep in barrows, farewell. To the power brokers
           yanking the lines, to the pauper with a fist
full of jasmine, to the hammer traveled

                        a thousand miles, to North Ave. bangups,
           Quiapo ripoffs, and City Hall breakdowns.
To a taxi's backseat musk, you gave me

                        the smell of the sea come rushing a metropolis,
           the smell of an ocean come to soak our children
to their bones, to skunky scotch, to Rock,

                        Jimmy, and Krip, to the makeshift shops
           and tattered plastic signs, to tenth-floor
bureaucrats, How many afternoons

                        I put ice to my earlobes as a way
to stay the wicked heat. To the counterfeits
of winter, farewell. What have I learned?

                       Sometimes this city goes dark
           for no apparent reason and you can know
nothing but the burnt hue of a stranger's skin

                        by candlelight. And when the electric
           comes back you need nothing but nod
to one another as your only despedida. Goodbye

                        to the rot-toothed girl with bad math, clutching
           a plastic sack of coins—my bags, little one,
are packed. To the EDSA skylines pried open

                        at 3am, to the illusion of falling giants,
to the felling of giants for real, to Jiggs
and Banjo, to you blue nag of a nun,

                        to all cabbie scams, gun in the front box,
           loaded, goodbye, for now

                        And to the beer guzzlers of Xavierville
           who dream in ska, my dreadful philosophers,
my punk rock sweethearts, please don’t laugh

                        from the other half of the world if in a year
           I’m still summoning you into the rooms
of Brooklyn, among dear poets there,

                        one by one, and my loved ones
           of that island will know you—who are loved ones
of this island—and we’ll fling rum to the floor

                        from our fingertips asking the god of cane
           to bless us all with long life, sweet breath,
and the demons’ blasé drums gone funky.

                        When calculus fails,
                                   after all: poems.

                        I used to think you had to rise into the air
           some 30,000 feet to behold the sum
of a city's light all at once. All I did

                        was step outside into the goblin dark
           and see the bodies for myself.
Some might say we are bound

                        together because, every generation,
           a monster with one or a million
eyes seems to come to try like hell

                        and take away our tongues.
           But it’s just us figuring out how to live
on what the floods entrust to us.

                        Case in point: I recognize the many ways
           to say Good riddance in every city
and yard I’ve been. And I’ve had to learn

                        entire languages without ever actually
           speaking. It’s another consequence of love.
Everything I say is half broken

                        before it even leaves my mouth.