POEM IN EXILE
By Loreta M. Medina
I gaze upon the mountains
To shake me out of a drunken sleep.
Today they are full and lush
They don’t leave a trace
Of the colorful crown
They had worn last spring
Or the bareness
That had clothed them in winter.
As I watch the mountains
I realize I’m on foreign soil once again
hovering above things like hot, summer air.
Home is where consciousness loses its hold
Where you are one with the wind, heat and dust
Family and loved ones, your taste buds
Grass and sun. Sounds at night.
While deciphering the trees
I let the green calm me down.
The gentle breeze makes the leaves flutter—
A collective ritual of dance and celebration.
A gust of wind blasts, tossing the leaves about
Creating a hissing sound that grows, and grows
Then fades into a drone.
The branches sway gently while the twigs lithely bend.
The leaves toss and tumble
Swooning like passengers in an invisible roller-coaster
Their underside gleaming like silver.
In the stampede there is secret harmony. Serenity.
People come and go
You meet them at doors
On streets or highways.
Sometimes they come unannounced
Catching you in the middle of a nap
Or a yawn or on your bare feet.
Other times they come in full regalia
Carrying all sorts of mask and insignia.
At worst times they come in a rampage
Like onrushing waves.
As you escape you can only thank your wits
And fancy feet.
Sometimes, you seek a soul
Looking far into the horizon
Until you hear him snore before your door.
Other times, when your karma is not right
No matter how hard you knock
The door does not open.
You can say Buddha is not yet ready.
Or, simply, things are not meant to be.
There are times when you feel like you’re a perfect friend
To yourself and prefer to be alone.
You don’t see or touch anyone.
You don’t think any thought. Or listen to anything
Except to that beat surging below your heart
Or the tiny throb humming under your wrist.
You linger awhile and listen
To the rhythm between your body and the silence
There’s grace in the enveloping space
Cadence in the stillness.
You move about in this eternal space
As if you were the universe
As if it were only you and the galaxy
That were there.
No greater truth is worth knowing.
You bathe in this presence.
You enter the tiny interstices
Of your newly found truth
Until you become truth yourself.
You have no need for a body that senses
Or a mind that analyzes. Or a hand
That will open for you the door to life’s mystery.
After a while you realize
That no matter what happens outside you
Life goes on . . . life goes on
In the heart of silence
In the warmth of your breath.
People come together:
In the gathering of selves
There‘s no consciousness,
There’s only giving.
In the locus of a moment
There’s a loss of self.
Maybe that is the secret of joy:
There’s no one who stands above you.
Before you. Or near you.
It’s only you and the moment
It’s only in recalling
That consciousness is regained.
Maybe it’s because
Lies self-knowledge. ###
(A revised version, first published in Heading Home, by Loreta Medina, Giraffe, Manila, 1996)
CALL OF THE FOREST
By Loreta M. Medina
You go to the corner of your room
Where two lines intersect to become an angle
Two lines stretching like the nape of a cat
Expanding to a point where they
Can no longer be discerned by the seeking eye.
The first line disappears like waves that waver
Where the horizon lies.
The second line hovers above you and banishes too
High up, nudging the blue skies, white clouds
That turn into night, peppered with stars.
Is this is the call of the forest?
Just you and the expanse of space
You have brought a pair of sandals, a veil
A staff: What do you need to find
The center that tells you what is important?
You hear the night sounds
It’s a ringing that resides inside the ears
Is listening a faculty required by the forest?
You only hear the thud of your heartbeat
Followed by a void that refuses to be filled
Is this what the fathers call emptying the self?
You wait, you wait
It is only the beginning
You need a lifetime to learn it.
August 31, 2009
Seoul, South Korea
By Loreta M. Medina
Brown is the bedrock of my identity
The color of ground peanut
Dark under moonlight
Bronze when struck by sun
The constitution of earth visited
And revisited by wind and storm.
When I enter a room
Full of white like foam the ocean’s
Regurgitation. The gleam of angry eyes
Flash of white teeth
Glint of lightning. I tremble.
But there’s a way of getting around
The gaze that kills
You multiply yourself into the X factor
And become like a broom, walis tingting
Thin sticks from coconut frond
Gathered together, a self unto itself
Sweeping away dust, trash, leaves
The heave of lobotomized desire.
I’m a poet stringing words
A painter configuring visions
Until they become palpable visible
Tactile the scent of magnolia in summer.
I sculp other people’s scalps
Scouring for subject and predicate
In a sea of disjointed sentences.
I scale the heights of Mount Apo
And drink from the waters of Agno.
When I meet those white eyes
I summon the selves, the dead palm leaves
Mountain, river, flower, grammar and palette.
From nowhere they somersault into fire
Where I stand: Tall, still, unflinching
Refusing to be lynched.
September 9, 2009; Jamsil, Seoul, South Korea
Loreta Medina is a poet, essayist, editor, and visual artist. These days, she’s trying to learn a Tausug dance and integrating one of the old scripts of the Philippines into her art. For more on the artist and her work, visit her website:http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/yourgallery/artist_profile/LoretaMedina/30367.html