There is a way to go about this place–how I let it
settle on my left pulse and leave it there, when
it’s never truly mine, but yours, irretrievably,
like a word you just said: maybe sleeve, or
sorrow, stranded in a slowness our arms
are trying to imitate. The boulevard hangs
here—not absolutely, but instinctively—
with its brief incidents: the breakwater, shop stalls,
trees. You know how this city works;
so that when you start to speak in your native
tongue, everything clicks into place, just
right, probably unpunished even.

Some nights I want to believe that any
stranger turns into a small country.
I see one in every bar or café—
Why Not, El Amigo, Memento—the kind
that lets himself be struck by a silence so dissonant,
foreign, that receives the soft light from every entrance
with too much mercy, too much love. Once you told me,
listening to Glenn Gould’s Bach, how you could almost
catch his heartbeat between fragments and phrases:
an animal making room. Yes, I am telling you
there is no other way to touch the instrument
but like this—a body that is fearless and difficult
takes a most beautiful ease to breathe.

In time, we might learn that any gesture
is a kind of displacement, that geography
is as near and small as our birthmarks. If you happen
to remember anything at all, that is because it is hard
to forgive the world’s loveliness—the quick shape
of movement, repetition, each fierce
return. When the body refuses to mark
the leave-taking, it becomes another quiet symbol,
another continent shifting in its sleep. Then we wait,
for nothing else will take on the same form
ever again, only the same name, and suffer
each likeness that constantly betrays us. Yes, I’d rather say
that the world’s duty is to remain still and boundless;
because we choose to stay longer, to touch means to forget.

Allan Justo Pastrana holds a Masters in Creative Writing [Poetry] from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. He finished his bachelors degree at the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music [Music Literature and Piano Performance]. He is a two-time Thomasian Poet of the Year and a recipient of the Rector's Literary Award during his college days. He bagged the Grand Prize in the English Division of the Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry in 2005 and won for the Essay in the 2007 Palanca Awards. His first book of poems is Body Haul [UST PublishingHouse, 2011]. Pastrana teaches Literature at Miriam College. He was a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.


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