Thursday, July 10, 2014

hankering for sweet air

Give me a nap, because the gods of sleep have left,
deserted this place where no angels dare to tread: insomnia,
a cruel kingdom with a crueler king.
Who have left me with no other recourse
than to chant, quietly, in my restless repose
the words of that song, born so long ago,
that traveled across oceans and rivers.
The song found rest--
a better rest than I have now--
in a muddy pond. Insignificant,
filthy, depressing.
A pond of little note.
There, in that pond, the song lay hidden.
I reached down into the sudsy laundry water.
I looked up at the masi in front of me,
she twisted her bed sheet until there was not
a drop of water left to fall from its tight folds.
 I followed her motion to the letter,
but she snatched the cotton sheet from my grasp,
and wrung out a cascade of water droplets
that had escaped my notice.
Nonplused, and slightly torqued, I plunged my arm
back into the water, dingy with soap.
And I found another sheet.
I wrung it.
I put every ounce of elbow grease into
forcing all the water from its creases.
The masi watched, ready to correct.
She took the wrinkled folds from me.
She twisted--
and found the sheet had run dry.
With a slight sideways nod,
to indicate an affirmation of my success,
she tossed the sheet into the bucket with the others.
I dragged the bucket up the stairs,
pulling them with me towards the bright light of the roof
I began to fold them on the taught lines,
criss-crossing the rooftop.
There, the song came to me,
up from the stagnant pond.
The breeze carried it over the bedsheets,
over the courtyards filled with guava,
jackfruit, and papaya,
down into a small green room.
The fans turned off,
for just a few minutes,
to preserve the flames of the incense and the candles,
the small green room was already a sauna.
The flames burned peacefully
in front of the cohort of portraits.
Five different Jesus' smiled at us:
the Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy,
the Infant clothed in emperor's robes.
Rina clicked happily and smiled at them all,
bestowing on them innocent, enthusiastic kisses.
The song's words filled the room.
All noise: the fans, the girls, the music,
all of it had ceased.
The music was the only thing.
It swelled with the sadness of an injured father,
and wept with the grief of a broken son.
But in that melody, that pain--
so evident, so inescapable--
was transformed, transfigured into
an altogether sweeter key.
I still can't sleep,
because that melody haunts even insomnia.

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