Thursday, July 28, 2011

Seven Daggers

Ericson Acosta's "Pitong Sundang" series translated by Charlie Samuya Veric

First Dagger: Last Slash and Burn

Beforehand the neck, then the forehead, now it’s the mountain’s cowlick

that we are slashing and burning—our last slash and burn.

Have you heard the chatters of the greedy

that I long to hunt you down, execute despite the cries?

Raze, let’s smash, the bridges in an eye’s wink.

Make sure the firewood burns without fumes.

Teach the dogs to howl soundlessly.

And on the trail disguise the trap that we’ve laid.

It’s silly to insist on crossing the clouds

if this parapet is found and our trap is dismantled.

Let’s hold fast to our righteous daggers

though a veil of fog is our only shield.

Second Dagger: Table

We remember, we’re cracking

the coconut

and the birds go darting.

We remember, we’re cutting

breadfruits and jackfruits

and other gifts with sap.

We remember, we’re slicing

a mango’s face

or perhaps a basketful of rice cakes.

We remember, we’re slitting

the neck of the bound and what joy

the squirting blood provides us with.

We’re cleaving

into pieces this boa as big as an arm—

offerings to the sick and anxious.

Third Dagger: Perspective

At times we tried to see

how straight, even, and pointed

our dagger’s edge and spine were.

I aimed it at the sky one day

and like the archer of hornbills and sparrows

I shut my left eye.

Then something appeared in my crosshairs:

a dragonfly it seemed—massive and motorized.

A million daggers are melted to make it,

the people said, and it’s shit is fire.

Fourth Dagger: Journal


we carve the names

of the remembered and deeply loved

on the side of a tree

on canes

on conch shells and bamboo instruments

on coconuts and pots.

Misspelled, yes,

but touch them and they truly are

the unfortunate chronicles

in the gaps between these letters—

burrowing into calluses and nails

like scales, spleens, and gills.

They truly are these:

the orphaned; the befuddled;

the anxious and sleepless;

the murdered while asleep;

the felled because already awakened

and to others are the awakeners.


we carve each syllable

of our memories and prayers

on the open post

on stairs

on windows and tables

on bamboo benches and beds.

Misspelled but true

and no longer a trace

of lesions, scrawls, and smudges;

no longer a brief half-consciousness.

These are the solid sores

of our found nightmares:

ruptures on lips and palates;

naked wound on the face;

fresh cut on the forehead;

tear in the stomach of a mother

who devoured daggers

because there was nothing else to eat.

Fifth Dagger: Poem

And some of us dared

To carve the oath

on the breast of the cave.

Each word beating

in the lambent fire:

















Sixth Dagger: Grindstone

After clearing and collecting wood for an afternoon

we gather

to sharpen our daggers.

In the remains of night on a lichened hill

beside a spring of crabs and snails

we gather

to sharpen our daggers.

Even then we have known

the mad curse brought

by deterioration and bluntness,

by dent and rust—

by unrelenting tolerance

for the greedy;

by pure pity for self-imposed misery

as the criminal condoles, rewards,

forgives, sings;

by doubting and thousand-fold indecisions

until blinded and crushed

from staring long at the flames;

by self-interest

when we’re all

floundering in the same mess—

thus we gather

to sharpen our daggers.

All night long if need be,

altogether, we steadily pare

each grindstone we find

till it cracks

under our sweat and destitution—

because we gather

to sharpen our daggers.

Till it’s likely to disguise

like swarming fireflies

the glint of our weapons,

we gather

to sharpen our daggers.

Till our weapons

make the air bleed,

we gather

to sharpen our daggers.

Till one of our children proclaims—

the naked and least of grandchildren from the wilderness;

the sickliest, most stolid and stuttering heir

of infinite void

and all sins.

“Tomorrow,” she says,

“the mass that shares our aim today

will match the number of cuts

on the master’s neck.”

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