To feed first on laughter, we open: gently, anak–araw,
sun’s children learning to eat, no teeth this cloudless season
only lips and greedy tongue. We are wells, bright gullets,
sparrow throats swallowing syllables of golden sound
that slip into mouths like seeds like smooth wet stone so eager
in grain and dust and pale–spackled air over streets sunlit, stabbed through
by triumphant slippers outrunning metal, those hurtling weights.
How strange, beginning—warmth sliding downward and ever, ever
deeper. Into secret salt. Into not–empty. A fullness that has our eyes
rounding in surprise, the black pool in our belly shattered. Laughter
tastes nothing like tears, a little like iron. We do not yet know
the taste of blood. Our wells shelter brine–sleeping oysters still unshelled,
and out of our tenderness we pick brittle stubs from our bones. Growing
into rhymes we swallow hard, snatch them our teeth snapping clumsy want
at the dark air: langit, lupa, impyerno. Taste the scorching, burn. Saksak puso:
stepping onto earth means danger, running, babble of trampled green
under a too–full moon. And some words strike in heaviness we cannot dodge.
Tulo ang dugo. Sounds bite this rain–fled season: alis ka na diyan. Oo, ikaw.
Ano ka ba? Truly, true, what are you?—See, rhymes taste of ampalaya, taho.
That bitterness of dry grass, burnt caramel seared with the growing knowledge
of ripening, rot. They choose who runs, who seeks, but wherever we crouch and hide,
we return to the blindfold’s post. Taya: now chase. Our blood beats
beneath skin branded by marks not our own. Still we open our body’s loose limbs
to summer nights: here is our riddle flesh. In return, oh, stories of monsters,
winged and lovely, scale–coiled round gold–edged fruit salt–sweet, meat to bite
and tear. These days we use our teeth. How we have waited! To gape wide,
gulp down sibilant tsismis of lovers, white ladies, dire multo, balete shadows
huge drops of rain over corridors red–waxed and long–armed, terror’s night music
melting like sugar on hot tongue. More than impyerno, yet still less. We gaze
into beetle–gleam windows, now opening. Candled glass does not reflect lamps
but beckons us through into seeing. Sight like stone pointing sharp fingers
at the balete’s loosened hair, what is hidden behind punso. Now we eat alamat
chewing slow, matinik kasi—Ilang–ilang’s blossom–laden hands,
pinya’s luminous yellow eyes, separating fishbone pinpricks from sweet flesh
with clever, careful tongue. Knowing is a curse that has broken many
before us. We hold our true name close to our chest, just under the left rib.
Where one keeps secrets and bugtong. A deep well, full of daggers—bibig.
Two wells you cannot turn to see—tenga. A queen they crowned a king—tayo.
These tart creamy moons wax in mangosteen’s dark, staining us. Morsels so rich
when we swallow our cheek grazes the knee of the other world. We, feathered serpent,
strange bird, bakla with no heart, gaze shuttered before weeping shatters. We grow,
we rise: in this season of heat we are makahiya running banners rampant over grass,
sun–searing, bleeding purple, thorned. For we have also fed on our lola’s
stories of surviving aswang, soldiers, peace: you fight for life because
it is yours, and her wood–cracked words tumbled embers down our throat, deep
into our belly, burning on. Patay. Buhay. Hindi ako aalis. We have swallowed light,
so much of it, entire galaxies of stories, and in this fire–sprung season
we offer our flesh as fruit aflame to other thirsts, wells, anak–araw. Consume, yes.
We live because we are ours. Because we desire! And still we rise, swallow, stretch
into immensities, sipping songs distilled into sangkatalaan. Oh all we have eaten,
sunlight and street, dust and the way gold pierces through circles in woven abaca;
pag–asa bursting from overripe mangga in heedless brilliant plosion, mollusc’s tears,
nights feathered in clacking tiktik, fireflies crowding around graveyard lamps,
bitter names salt–sharp, crowned. We will eat, nourish: all that brightness, deep and true.
Held under bone, that last secret. How to become a black hole: swallow a star.
(Editors’ Note: “The Eaters” is read by Amal El–Mohtar in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 3B.)
© 2015 by M Sereno