Alyza May Timbol Taguilaso

Doomsday Dictionary

I am the ambulance siren awakening you in the afternoons.
I am the bruises on both cheeks; remove the mask and you lose this battle.
I am the cough cracking the air into droplets of chaos.
I am the doctor who died because a patient denied their symptoms.
I am every emergency room that overflows with all the fears you cannot name.
I am the fever that rises as your breath falters, the gloved fist that will pound on your chest.
I am a government pointing all its guns to God.
I am the healthcare worker hosed down with hydrogen peroxide while heading to the hospital.
I am each infected patient – identities classified but never invisible.
I am jade eggs and juice mixes joining forces to administer cure and joy for this joke of a disease.
I am the knots tying themselves in the intestines of a child who has never known shelter.
I am the lies that cost billions in blood and islands to uphold.
I am the monitor that will beep one final moment.
I am norepinephrine, dobutamine, dopamine – everything the world has concocted: not enough.
I am the oxygen you breathe through layers of filters.
I am the politico who tested positive but refused to disclose their result in time.
I am the one question this quarantine has led you to consider.
I am a recovered statistic – a ray of stubborn light in this regime.
I am the streets – vacuous as a dictator’s heart.
I am a test that confirms the diagnosis days after the patient has expired.
I am the underbelly of the slums, upturned palms that know all the words for hunger.
I am the virus. Or am I the vaccine?
I am the wailing of all those wives and mothers who were disallowed to weep those this war took.
I am the x-ray that gives you away.
I am your conscience, or what remains.
I am the zoom and buzz of a busy workday: everything you yearn for of what has passed.

From the Early Days of the Plague, 21st Century

And the sky will come for you once. Just sit tight until it’s done.
      -      Whiteout Conditions, The New Pornographers

Zero drugs exist 
to treat this disease. You’re unsure
if you’ll last this year of your training, 
considering you’re young but eat nothing 
healthy. X no longer stands
for places on a map, rather as constant 
variable for amount of afflicted, recovered, 
or dead as the days pass 
into months. What remains of the world?
Vacant streets. No one veers out into the open
without hearing the words virus or vaccine, 
and they repeat this to themselves,
as though in prayer. Unseen, it persists and grows
like a tiny god. Underneath all those layers 
of protective clothing, you continue to feel ill-
equipped, radioactive. This is the best
your government has offered you; this is the most
your friends can provide. Take all the vitamins you can 
                                and hope
for a negative result. The skin of your hands crack
as you run it through soap and water 
again and again. Wash away the sins 
of the world - You rest
a good seven days before returning 
to the hospital once more. Questions exceed
all answers you are permitted to utter, and some days
you curse yourself into a quiet penance for treating a patient
less like a person and more as a source 
of infection. Over and over this repeats. Who is to blame
that the oxygen you now breathe could be laced
with poison? Numbers pile on lists 
pile on graphs pile
on unclaimed bodies
disregarded by those in power. You continue 
to plough on like a machine, move
your body against all misgivings. You've seen their lungs,
rigid and pale like glass, and you wonder how long
it will take before something plants itself inside you 
until you break. You keep
the mask on like a talisman, until all but a knife is needed 
to inscribe new grooves into your face. Your jaws ache
each time you operate: the scalpel shakes as your goggles fog
from sweat. Your incisions run smooth 
even if you can barely inhale the room air.
You follow all instructions intended
to keep you alive. You make haste
as you work. The hospital is host to hordes
of pathogens. You change gowns and gloves
after you change rooms, go over this ritual 
to prevent yourself from going
mad. They praise you for fighting 
in the frontlines of this alleged war 
yet the fogs fail to lift. The figures
rise: Fallen friends, people reduced
to pixels on a screen. You run
empty after every shift but feign the energy
of a child. The world encourages you to risk
your life, daily. It’s your duty
as a doctor now. Never mind your dreams,
or fears of dying. You cleanse your body
every time you arrive home, call
the ones you love, despite the cities
and hemispheres between. You breathe, bless
the corners of your small apartment
with alcohol and bleach, beseech
what remains of heaven
for a miracle. You remember all those patients
promptly placed in bags, transported away, 
elsewhere to burn: their final moments 
                                 alone, all ablaze.

Alyza May Timbol Taguilaso a resident doctor training in General Surgery at Ospital ng Muntinlupa. She is a graduate of the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center, Inc. and the Ateneo de Manila University. Her poems have appeared in High Chair, Stone Telling Magazine, Philippines Free Press, and Kritika Kultura, to name a few. She was a fellow for English Poetry in the 10th Iyas, 10th Ateneo, and 50th Silliman University National Writers workshops. Last 2019, she presented papers discussing reexpansion pulmonary edema in the CHEST Congress in Bangkok, Thailand and American Thoracic Society in Dallas, Texas.