(For Genoveva “Mama” Bernardez, 100 years old—and to would-be centenarians)
Primary is the dinglichkeit, the thinginess of things.
Paraphrased from John Crowe Ransom,
A Note on Ontology
Each turning image
In old age
Can be persistent and keen,
When what has been
Of old ambiences
—like, treeless, a scorched meadow,
or waves crashing, or the soundless dew
When these turn scrounging essences,
Like obstinate lumps of frothiness
Bodying themselves anew.
In orgies of recall;
They scramble and prowl
Around the woodlands, an abundance there
Of mangrove swamp smells
And dogbean in mingy flower,
Monkey pods, teetery toadstools, the roots
Of trampled balsam and healer herbals
Impaling the nostrils.
And the passion fruits
Litter the ground.
No stopping the ubiquitous vine
Pitching down the round
Passionate plenitude, heap-on-heap,
Squelchy and ardent in fruit-ades, and wine.
Still, there are some best lost.
The bits verboten are burrowed deep
But sharp. Sharp as the cracked stone
Plunged into the tripped knee
Like hot slivered metal;
Or the silly weepy number three
Bewailing the lost shiny medal;
Or the obscene crows fleecing the corn
Already plundered by migrant locusts.
Though the healer sprout sets
The roots wrenched by weathering,
What the mind forgets
The scars keep remembering.
Obvious and wise then,
Only the prime chips that time
Would bother tell;
Scrag and bone and nerve dispense
When recall goes numb,
Then would the random sense
Keep animate each wayward crumb.
One of my favorite poems of Edith L. Tiempo, Philippine National Artist for Literature, from her book, Marginal Annotations and Other Poems.