“In the Middle of Everything, a Prayer” and Other Poems

Translated from Tagalog by Hannah Keziah Agustin

In the Middle of Everything, A Prayer

In the name of the mother and father
With the weight of the cross
On their eyelids.

So this is how it feels, my child—
to live on opposite poles

of stretched reveries.
To behold the risks of rising

and falling in the days of not
knowing where we are.

Every night, we beseech the rest
-lessness of burning news.

We nail to our foreheads, our chests,
our shoulders—the salvation

of thirsting fields.
Open-mouthed houses of threshed grain.

In the name of the brother
who shepherds
deserted sheep.

May you be blessed all the more
for the benevolence your palms

to the yawning hollows
of my house.

I did not lack the chafe.
The gripe. The blow. Forgive

me. Father, help me
take account of everything

now that my child
has a child.

In all honesty, I pray
that enough is enough.

In the name of the spouse
who is haunted night by night
By the dream of the snake on a branch

I confess
the adultery of my fevered

lips, tongue, chest,
arms, palms, ribs, and thighs.

I confess in the altar of melancholy
The kisses that are missed

in rooms,
in the chest of the nameless.

Forgive, don’t consume me at your arrival—
I will remain flesh, not salt.

In the name of the children
who are seated
in the mystery of the in-between.

I wish for your slumber, Lord.
My family’s susurrations are legion.

Again and again. Again and again.
If your head does not woe,

I only have a question: is it true,
what Lola said about Armageddon?

Is there another town
in the afterlife?

Rest, O Lord.
I look up to the sky

for my wish
month after month.



On the Weather

What does the weatherman feel
whenever he reports and points
to the sun, clouds, rain, and thunder?
How does one expect the fall,
the weight of scattering? The flush?
If the wind becomes a typhoon,
how does one target the ruin
such that it has one eye?

Where are the boundaries
of the Area of Responsibility?
When it leaves the country, why
does the possibility
of a tropical depression form?
How accurate is the lens
of the placement of the sun; place
the situation of the archipelago
that we inhabit?

There are many questions
about the weather:
it unfolds, it folds,
it hangs like an umbrella



Sea Turtle

Crew member, defended
by the escaping pirate.
Confirmed: a countryman.
No name,
the victim on the news.

When I visited my grandmother in the province,
confirmed: someone from my childhood.
Buried with a closed casket
because his skull was open.

Before, we built the fort of a palapa.
Warned the fruits
In the forest in your backyard.
Laughing at the bumps of the cast
Rinsing the scars of Pantalan

Once, we passed by a sea turtle
begging at the shoreline.
We fought over the reason for tears.

We saw each other again, bumps in our throats.
Stared at each other quickly because of the beard
Then nodded—went our separate ways.
That was the last time.

I don’t know why you keep asking
my grandmother. If she knows
where we went after
my mother flew.

No tears. No hugs.
No lookbacks. No waves.
I meant it, as my mother did.
Extra baggage for where I was going.

Only the sea turtle knows
its age, its true name.
How it lived
to leave its home.
This might be why the sea springs
forth toward the eyes.
This might be why we name
it loss, to understand
the never disappearing weight:
the home hanging,
the crate hanging


you are coming home.
You are coming home.