Enrique S. Villasis translated by Bernard Capinpin


Translated from Filipino

You pin your faith to the levity of feeling, and like dawn ushered in by the iridescence of the rusted roof, the belief that, at times, not all suffering comes from sorrow; but the truth is I often want to say that this holiness too can gash, that the connections these things share are fragile—that even the wind drowns in the waves, that it is not only the changing season the flock of wild ducks flee from, that even the most constant star can lead astray. Look for the breeding grounds of locusts and find the nest of primordial fears. While, out in the open sea, the dorado’s agile darting—repetitive, thrashing against the line—changing its color at the brink of death: blue, green, yellow. It is often for beauty that our violence is concealed. All I want to say is, magnificence does not lie at such throes. Here, the newly mown grass can abrade. Here is a handful of salt and tell me the pain of being stung in the eye.


Translated from Filipino

 She was again seized by wonder. She saw
 Two long braids of cloudscape; white threads
 In the sky’s forehead. She knew the seagull and pelicans
 That pecked at the barnacles which had drifted, clinging
 To her body but it was not the wings that unfurled what so
 Astonished her. She longed to introduce herself.
 She suddenly let out a geyser from her blowhole,
 Taking chances at the abrupt turn. But further it went. 
 Before submerging herself again, she felt the sprinkling
 Water coming back and while looking up, it was as if 
 The cloudscape itself had unleashed the rain. 


Translated from Filipino

 At the end of it all only your eyelids shall remain. Here
 By the coast. Flies examine the map you have left
 From your journey. Its moss gradually fading.

 There is no sadness in going on one’s own. You are
 Like an unexpected pilgrim succumbed to a town’s mysterious
 Plague. A bag clings on your shoulders and the burden

 To heal your wounds, you bring nothing else but
 Five petals of jasmine, four strands
 Of cat fur, two bands of broken

 Rosaries and a pair of clouded goggles. 
 One by one you erase them from yourself while the language
 Of those you meet changes, oaths erased

 In the name of countries. Until you forget
 Where you have come from. How many times have you shed off
 Your scabs and scattered islands remain by your body before

 Having told yourself you’ve toiled enough. So you disrobe yourself.
 At the first instant you realize that the horizon
 Was within reach, you say never have I left.


Translated from Filipino

“We are attracted to every aspect of life that represents a last illusion yet unshattered…” —Barbara Cully

Watch, the catfish are crawling on their knees, crossing the newly soaked asphalt, the weather herding them to the unknown, and at a glance, they are like heirlooms handed down and lost: tickets from a departure and a homecoming, a bottle filled with sand, a dried stingray whip. The clouds’ reflections are still shadows in the field that had been flooded. In other words, this is what remains. Later, by the wick still unlit, the grandchildren will sit around their grandfather, begging for stories. Before, they used to pass the days harvesting and cooking spinach. From the mire, they dug out a helmet, after a while, a boot and later, a bayonet. The old man decides not to tell what else they’ve seen. And after, he will shift to his dazzling romance with their grandmother. Their storytelling will be interrupted by the gargling of the transistor radio: tomorrow will be clearer. Tomorrow as though a promise.


Translated from Filipino

 This is how large we know
 Of death: like a galley
 Subsumed by hunger or war. 
 As it beached by the shore,
 We became pirates in search
 For whatever we could exploit.
 But what might we find beneath
 The scales of which we know not of?
 The unease caught us in a net,
 That a curse might befall anyone
 Who tasted its flesh. The sea held
 Countless secrets and here, one lay.
 Someone said, this one swallows up
 Those who have disappeared and drowned
 Whenever a storm reaches the sea.
 It is but a child, he said,
 Compared to Jonah’s whale.
 Many nodded at his words.
 Another added, this beast
 Is the sea spirit’s mystical steed.
 It might be its horse or if not, its elephant.
 Like a superstition in cooking,
 Some were convinced we might end up
 Finished like the fishes once we ate it.
 So it was with a picture taken
 That we were content
 To share this one memento. 

Enrique S. Villasis is a poet and a scriptwriter. His first book of poems Agua was published by Librong Lira and a finalist for the National Book Awards. He worked for ABS-CBN as a television writer before the Philippine government politically harassed and denied the franchise of the network. 

Bernard Capinpin is a poet and translator. He is currently working on a translation of Ramon Guillermo’s Ang Makina ni Mang Turing. He resides in Quezon City.