Just This One
Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she
has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures
of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
The Fourth Geneva Convention
When someone says “Think about the bigger picture,”
I hide. My life has the legs of an ant. I find the resilience
of pebbles more inviting. They smooth themselves on riverbeds,
current rushing over their backs, pushing them to cling
with other pebbles or grains of sand pounded to near nothingness.
There are so many of them, too many to count. Each one
has something the others do not possess. Perhaps the thinnest streak
of brown, the slightest indentation, the faintest crack.
Even when they are broken they are never the same. Caress
the jagged edge of this one with your index finger. Just this one.
Fear, the Official Story
Every year those who relish a particular taste
pry open this wound using blunt instruments
such as a butter knife or a spoon.
Nothing surgical, for they want the mess
to be visible to everyone. See how it hurts.
It is a strange wound felt
deeply by all who saw its birth
televised. Distances conquered
by grief via satellite.
I remember that disbelief,
texture of leather
in the back of my throat.
Then just as quickly came the fear
of who might be blamed.
The hows and whys and whos
that led to the wound were officially declared
but never put to rest.
Repetition turned to religion.
The wound itself became reason enough
to inflict misery a thousandfold greater.
Years later we are told again
this wound alone matters.
Let nothing get in the way
of this crucifixion.
(both poems from Alien to Any Skin, Manila, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011).
Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates in Filipino and English. He moved to Cape Town, South Africa in 1994. His work has appeared in Rhino, World Literature Today and Modern Poetry in Translation among others. His eighth book of poetry, Wings of Smoke, published in 2017 by UK-based independent publisher The Onslaught Press and is available through them and most online retailers. Jim shares random thoughts and drafts on www.matangmanok.wordpress.com. Twitter @matangmanok