Night of the Rabble-Rousers


Under a mercury lamp
In front of Father Tropa’s white house,
By the sea off Dumaguete,
Gather a crowd of bystanders
Around bible-clutching ministers,
Local sages, native philosophers,
And self-styled prophets of doom
Engaged in a free-for-all match
Of rhetorics, semantics,
Home-brewed knowledge, and folk beliefs
About the myths and mysteries
Ever shrouding the life of Christ.

From a distance,
On top of the concrete seawall,
Over heads and shoulders of the crowd,
I watch with amused delight
The endless bursts of wisdom,
Strange revelations,
Esoteric facts and fiction
That send strong surge of friction
Electrifying the soggy summer night.

Suddenly the lamp expires.
The rabble-rousers do not mind.
The demagoguery goes on unperturbed.
Behind me I hear the sea waves laugh
As they lap the craggy rocks.
Swish. Swoosh. Swash.
Even the quarter moon strikes a sheepish smile
As a balut vendor cries his eggs out
And a tricycle sputters fast –
Its passengers shouting
Obscenities at the crowd.

Cesar Aljama is an architect. He has won the Palanca Award for his poetry. He lives in Bae, Laguna, which is beside Los Baños. He was a fellow at the Silliman University National Writers Workshop.


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