Poetry Issue 5

   Issue#5: July - December 2005

Mabi David


Letras y Figuras


      The painter will have the people
      conduct their bodies and day’s errands
      to the run of each letter. Smooth
      comprehensive pictographs for the foreigner
      to take with him— harvests of sugarcane
      and abaca, cockfights, flora endemic,
      some Chinoisserie, a black-haired girl
      bathing at the artesian well, and an Igorot
      with his prized peninsular’s head— all

      spelling out his name. The figures hew close
      to each majuscule: O’s a belly, stems for an E,
      the D’s humped back a guard hunched over asleep,

      and the F a proud straight-backed native,
      his blade unsheathed and under
      his other arm at the end of which
      a black-red dripping head, F’s serif.

      To foreground the plane of the name
      the painter will blazon it in full color.
      Brilliant tasseled silks over celadon jars,
      glistening brown fruit of the betel, russet
      pools by the foot, men the color of mud cakes.

      The painter will have none of the noonday sun,

      the background a featureless creeping
      past outlines and into gullies of the letters
      where a dark beast of burden will lighten
      or a fire-breasted cock with talons of cream.
      An arm hardly there for the handed-out wares.

      Bridges thin into wires on the far horizon
      then sink from the scene. Ships
      and carriages stream translucent away
      from the thick impasto
      and the opacity of what the eye can see
      toward the vanishing point.