Cuernos de Negros


The gentle rustle of mountain spirits
Unspools memory as the lamplight leaps
Into a sudden dance: once a child
He had watched his father clearing grass
Grown wild; he had sought and staked
His kinship with the sower’s stance
And drove the plough with his bare hands.

Up in the sky he had scanned the slopes
Of his father’s mountains: gently winding
Down, the river ran from the bubbling spring
And split and multiplied across the heaving
Fields so richly pied with fruits
And ferns and flowers; now scourged by dry
Winds whipped by the sun’s thieving eye.

Midnight under the cold white moon
And dim, dying stars; he returns and wonders
Still at the curious call of dark birds,
The plop of frogs on a quiet pond, cicadas
Crying about the trees, the swish of scythes
At harvest time, and the boy that ran
Singing down the winding mountain slopes.

At dawn, through the clearing fog, steel
Structures rise close to the sky, dig
Deep between the mountain’s horns, suck
From its stones its majestic core of power.
In time, the trees that will remain
Will fall, the springs will die, and all
Will genuflect before the powerful spires.

In time they will not remember, but perhaps
When they grow old, they will see visions
Of Cuernos de Negros in their dreams.

Elsa Victoria Martinez Coscolluela was born in Dumaguete City, where she earned her AB and MA for Creative Writing at Silliman University. (She was also Miss Silliman 1964.) Later, she was Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of St. La Salle, and retired in 2010 after thirty-two years of service. Upon retirement, she was conferred the rank of Professor Emeritus and was designated Special Assistant to the President for Special Projects, a post that she continues to hold. During her term as VPA, she founded the Negros Summer Workshops with film Director Peque Gallaga in 1990, and the IYAS Creative Writing Workshop in 2000, in collaboration with Dr. Cirilo Bautista, Dr. Marjorie Evasco and the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center of De La Salle University, Manila. She writes poetry, fiction, drama, and filmscripts in English. She has published a book of poetry, Katipunera and Other Poems. Several of her works have been anthologized. As a writer, she is best known for her full-length play about Dumaguete during World War II, In My Father's House, which has been produced in Dumaguete, and in Japan, Singapore, San Francisco, and New York. She was inducted to the Palanca Hall of Fame in 1999 and is the recipient of several awards from the CCP, Philippines Free Press, and the Philippine Centennial Literary Competition. She continues to work at the University of St. La Salle where she manages several special projects and directs projects for the Eduardo Cojuangco Foundation.

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