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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Genevieve Arsenjo's Kinaray-a Poems Translated into English

The following poems were written by Genevieve Asenjo which I translated from Kinaray-a to English. Genevieve is from Antique.

When The Scholar Got Dumb

You can’t understand
Why it is as dark,
As blue as your skin
The assurance for owning
The land you inherited
From time.
Even the silence
Wrapped by shame, fear
Doubt each time you
Descent, roam around
The plain

It’s not the theories
Of sociology and psychology
That struggled to free from my memory
But images that laid down
In your face: pathways known to your feet
As you hope for each mercy and alms;
Bodies naked from hunger
And ignorance, shielding
The heat and coldness in places
Where homes are mountain colored
And smell like a river.

Translated by Melchor F. Cichon
February 6, 2005


Lullaby On A Rainy Season

When it’s a rainy season like this,
Longing is pouring
In my heart.
It was a rainy season when you left.
Now, even if I’m alone
I still plow
The writing field
Lately, I broadcast
My seeds of words.
I will fertilize it with practice;
I will enrich it with tension
Of flood and pestilence, I will pull out
The wild metaphor, and harvest it with seeds of happiness
I will not abandon this
Although they will insist that there is no pomposity
In farming, in writing.
I know that as long as I live
And all poems are true
In our soul while there is
Planting during rainy season,
You will still come home.

Translated by Melchor F. Cichon
February 6, 2005


(For John Iremil Teodoro)

The electric fan shivers
And your room lives
In the Saturdays and Sundays
Of ours stripping
From clothes of poetry
It’s soft as your bed
The crawling phrases
Of my appreciation of every

New line that you allowed me to read.
But why does the time
Get jealous to the shiver of the electric fan?
It warms the loneliness
Of your room
All the Saturdays and Sundays
Cannot be consumed
But I don’t get fed up kissing
The lips of writing rengga with you
The way I touch the curb
Of the vocabulary of Luisa-Igloria
So I ‘ll just embrace
The copies you gave me
With the heat of any room
There is no electric fan
That the time gets jealous into.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon


Isko’s Love

I’m sorry, my love
I have no Greenwich
For you.
Dollar is eating up
My wallet.
From today, my visit
Will be scarce.
It’s because the gasoline does not lower its price
Besides, I’m training my partner in the streets
With placards to be hungry
Where my breath is.
In nights when PLDT fails,
Just fight back the protest of loneliness
I’m fighting still, to bargain
A few centavos for another morning.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 11, 2005


For Deding, the Laundrywoman

To you, every morning
Is a ritual of descent.
In unity with your fingers
And hands in water and bubbles
You already have mastered
The exercise of sitting down
And bending in consonance
With the rhythm of scrabbling and wrinkles.
Even the prayers
Of thanksgiving each time the multi-colored
Dump fronting you
Is like the earth.
They are like Banderitas in your yard
That welcomes the wind and the sun.

At night, you continue
To feel the weight
Of the past days
At your back.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 12, 2005



These breasts
Are small breasts. It’s not
necessary to hide from the Wonder
bra of Avon, SaraLee, and Triumph.
Small size, it’s easy
For the hands to support them.
These breasts
Are small. They free me
From touching and watching, erection—
In the streets, malls, jeepneys and buses.
These breasts are mysterious
Breasts. I very well know—
And again,
The man
Has become a child.
Angel is my constant playmate.

(adapted from “homage to my hope” by Lucille Clifton)

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 12, 2005


Red is the Color of the Text Message

The enjoyment of my sister
Flew until Taft Avenue. It arrived
With a Kinaray-a sound, this youngest
Sister is enjoyable. Red as that of
Gumamela at the backyard
And as sticky as a sweetened rice broth.
Sticky-red with a smiting smell.
She is happy that it has unique smell
This red thing that flew from her nose
When once it blew to her face
The fist of her defeated opponent.
It’s different from the pain of prick
Of thorn, bruises-scars birthmark
While looking for firewoods and from
Climbing trees during summer. It’s funny
She was ahead of her cousin now
In high school. But, oh, it flew
Down the stairs not passing through
The three steps.
It was not absorbed
By the reddened panty. (She requested that
I buy her a new facial wash).
It’s funny. I was then dumb-struck.
I felt so ashamed
each time my male-classmates teased me of my reddened
school uniform. I was worried of the notice,
teasing, and warning from the leaders.
Even the whisper of the other girls
to have red-sticky flow is deafening.
It’s funny, this life-smelling, self-imagination.
And it’s really funny—
Slowly I massaged my breast
And down below and smelled and felt my being alone.
Me and my Bunso.
Happily, I went out
To buy a new cell card.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 12, 2005


An Invitation to Summer

Hurry up, Ging, join me to memorize again
The lots. We will run after the butterfly and grasshoppers
As fast as we can recall our memories
Once you get tired
We will rest at the hillside
And whistle to the sweet smell
Being carried by mangoes and water melon

Oh, yes on Saturday, we will go to durog.
There at the well I will wash laundry. Don’t tell
That those that swim are packages of Downy, Palmolive
And Tide Ultra
Where will Nonoy go to for a cooler place?
That his calf can is sneeze at.

And our loneliness, where shall we
Keep it when even our historical
Acacia has been cut down
From the cutting of the chainsaw.

And yes, the stories of the kingdom
Of tamawo and of dwarf have
Swept away by flood like mudslides.
And on the plain there is spiritual
danger; the giants have
cell phone, have BMW; and
the witches on May 10 are bewitching.

Ging, go with me. Support the opposition.
I’m wondering how gold are gone
Like how the firefly got lost,
In your eyes I’m looking for their light.

Let’s play at the meadows
We will fly kite, we will fly
Dreams about the fields
So when rain comes in June,
We will clean our hand to return
The seeds we harvested through hardship.

We will then proceed to the shore
There we will parade our unity.
Let us make our boats on the sands
Without worries from the promised
Of cyanide and dynamite.

Ging, let’s celebrate life!
In the west wind, in the southwest wind,
Let us allow tomorrow
To ride freely.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 12, 2005


Of Broken Glasses and Men

It’s been your hobby
To pick up broken glasses
At the shores.
Because they are now many,
You set them aside. The sap
Of your mind has become the glue
And your expert fingers
Form a crystal-like
Statue. Now, it becomes boastful
Sitting in your table—
It’s guarded, admired.
We are broken glasses
In our own shores
Perhaps, we will be picked up too,
Molded, displayed
Like it?

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 12, 2005\


Medley of Weavers

I’m weaving
The pregnant seed
In a dried womb
While my fresh blood drips
From my tired body
In the field—
Caring of a field
He can not own.

I want to please him.

I will weave the sun
That spread light
To the hut that is surrounded by meanness.
The moon on the ageing roof
And the stars on the window
Are witnesses of all my sighs.

But the sun is setting,
The face of the moon is changing
And the stars are falling.

I want to be with him.

I will weave the breathe
On the bending back for poverty
Until the bitter memories
Are blown out.
One by one, I will weave the wound
On his memory.
I will massage the cracking
Palm and kiss
The shaking hand
I’ll do it this way and close the fist.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 15, 2005


Long Distance Call

Your voice and your admiration
Are smoking in happiness:
So you are now teaching at Semirara
After months of sweating
In a position in a school.
It was that easy to climb and descent
From your house (It’s because it needs
Two years of experience and a masters
Degree and you only have master’s units.
You have close relatives or godfathers
And godmothers at the division’s office
Where your mother had
Been going back and forth for a cash advance at the Coop)

Your looks pierced with your lover’s
At the pier in Culasi
And oh, you wondered at the
Different vessels and barges
That changed those things you used
To see at the fields at the hillside.
And because Antique is too far
(the mainland to the natives),
You hold in your hand the letter
And the money sent though you
And an assurance to a friend
Who will be floating
At the waves toward Mindoro.

The island has a lot of friendship, you said.
Social: school bus, airport, hospital,
And water and electricity are free in your dorm.
However, you sighed
The sand has no brightness of machines and of the shells.
It is not in the smashing and in the marathon of waves
Towards the shore that we find the rhythm of time.

My cell phone had a low battery
Because of your spattered saliva
And I became dumb
With a wish that you could bring the world
At the paradise of Sumerara.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 22, 2005


Message of March
(for T’ya’y Minda)

I can hear your sobbing
Between the lines of the reading materials.
It’s full of truths
From you and from others who experienced it.
It’s like a chronic pain in the ovary.
You said that love is the foundation of sacrifice.
In your laundry:
You tell your loneliness to the kettle
And your laughter to the corner of the house.
You implant your wish for companionship
For the future.
Your silence creates
A small noise.
When will you raise your skirt
To the romantic hands of your husband?
The church ritual is not a string
To be pulled anytime your body is desired.
Create fear from the sharpness
Of your tongue.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 22, 2005


A Tragedy of A Virgin

no blood
oozes from my thigh
the first night he invaded me.

in rhythm with
his penetration-withdrawal
was my screaming: pain,
moan, pain,
but his doubts drawn
the holiness
of my innocence;
he was like Othello
who judged my virginity:
virgin or prostitute?

no blood
oozed from
my thigh.
it flew out though my mouth
and caught my drying
sweat and tears.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 24, 2005


Wife In Time of No-Glory

Our hugs and kisses
Were shortened
At dawn.

The crowing of the chicken
Was the speed of cars
And you would again try
At the agency and the company.

Immediately you turned on the tv
The window was no longer the same
In reading the weather from the rushing
News: a man committed suicide.
Upon learning to loop money
To buy gasoline for his self and his soul.

I prayed carefully as I piled up pillows.
I wanted you to bring along
The brightness and alertness of my eyes.
Instead of my pieces of wounds
In my mind and in my heart
For shooting at the contrasted system.
At the dream of having beyond
The three meals a day.

This hope, beloved,
Is the first thing that we will fight for
To remain whole
Despite the shortness of our
Embracing and kissing
At dawn.


Eldest, On The Third Month

I immediately knew you
When you came to me
One morning
Of my hardship.
You and my
Vomiting, dizziness
Weakness, frequent urination
Are one.
I hope you will understand,
Child, if my tears
Have doubts
In welcoming you.
The twinkling in my eyes
Are fearful
But I wonder
How this twinkling
Can be a strength to complete
The need of my stomach and spirit.
I listen, my child,
To your movements—
Voices and images
Multicolor challenges
Of my boastfulness and my bravery.

Translated by
Melchor F. Cichon
February 27, 2005