In the House of the Sage by Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr

1.

A lion’s head, a lotus flower, circles
++++++and semicircles with dots:
hieroglyphics for other ages
++++++++++++to decipher.

+++++++++Our eyes can
not see as we have not been awake
+++++++++long enough.

2.

+++++My guests have travelled far,
the swallows from Japan and China.
++++++++++++They are free
+++to chatter and peck the ground,
the swallows from Japan and China.

3.

What have I been called in the town of San Diego?
++++++++++Philosopher.
++++Charlatan making a show
of my sprawling lexicon. Doctor
++++++++++quack quack.
++++The brain-damaged fool.

All of it: the depths
++++++++++++of blue, its manifold gradations.

4.

++++++Nobody loves the naked
++++++++++++truth.
A mask has a story to tell; no—
++++++the mask is the story.

5.

If the head itches,
++++++it is the hand that scratches.
For head, say church. For hand,
++++++++++++say state.

No separation in a body intent
to devour as much as it can for as long as it can.

6.

++++++How radiant is the sun,
++++++++++++how blinding.
+A trick: place a bowl of water to reflect
++++++++++++the sun, flickering
beacon, light without its death ray stare.

7.

A stalk, laden with buds and flowers,
++++++bows before the wind
++++++++out of necessity.

To make for port at the first gust
++++++of a whirlwind, to stoop
++++++++as a bullet passes—

how else could we have survived?

 

 

 

A Filipino writer based in Singapore, Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. is the author of Requiem, a chapbook. His poems have been published in Rattle, Hayden’s Ferry Review, We are a Website, and other journals and anthologies. He is a recipient of the Palanca Award for Poetry in the Philippines, as well as awards from British Council Singapore’s Writing the City.