If Dogs Knew Poetry

“Make sure that you don’t burn the house down”.  That was his only instruction.  He never minded anything else other than that, not even the broken dishes, all the books that were made scattered all over the living room, nor his ruined fancy floor rug, for his instruction was simple, and direct.

He slings on his leather bag over his shoulder, crams the front door keys and the cigarette lighter in his left-hand pocket and takes one last look in the mirror to check on his neatly combed hair and his color matched buttoned shirt and jeans.

The housekeeper wags his tail, pants a little, but breathing quite calmly.  This is not the first time his master is going to leave him of the keep while he is away.  The entrusted one runs and jumps on the couch to watch his old friend get in the car to start the ignition.

He barks a couple of times behind the dusty window pane.  It hasn’t been cleaned since the last time she was around.  A thought circled inside the mutt’s head.

But it was not his job to clean the house, for him, he was given something more profound to do, nobler, a far more dignified duty.

He does his rounds, walked down the halls, past the family photos that lined evenly sitting atop the old narra drawer. Some of them were colored, but most were taken in black and white.  He will see them all again maybe at the end of the year, but today and the rest of the coming days, the halls will be quiet.

The patrol keeps on, the gaze was fierce, but his movements were silent. His pads matched perfectly with the wooden floors.

Across the side table and the leather chair of his master, strolled down the pathway between the living room and the dining area, surveying consistently, turning his head from side to side.

He reaches the kitchen, snout laying low, his forensic tool.  He circled around the tiled plain, in the corners and finally rested at the backdoor. He was looking at the green yard through the spaces.  He knew something was going down. He just didn’t know when, but he intends to be there when it does.

He may be over-anticipating, but it is always good to manage your expectations, his master would say.

For him, he was knighted with this solemn duty and the instruction was simple.

Don’t burn the house down.

And as he rested his muzzle next to his paws, his brisket laid flat against the floor.

He closed his eyes for a while and thought of the older times.

When his fuzzy golden fur was sandy on most days, and his cold nose was warmed by the early morning sun.

On how the wind from the waves of the beach sailed the rivers of his hair and cradled him to sleep.

He will never learn how to read and much about literature.

But that was the poetry he knew.

He relished those collarless days.

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Letters from a Passerby

“I am going to save the world someday!” He exclaimed to himself, giving the invisible foe a determined nod as if this was a known certainty. “Maybe not soon, but someday you’ll see.” He was threading on the railway line all the way from the previous town on the other side of the mountain, following a gravel pathway staying away from the rain-soaked grass on both sides. Every step makes a crunching sound as the soles of his boat shoes land on the uneven surface of the boulder fragments.

“But for now, I will have to find a dry place to take a rest.” As he stretches on both arms up in the air with a quick release of a yawn. He wears a collared striped shirt, buttoned all the way up, hand-me-down khaki shorts from his older brother and a fisherman’s hat to complete his wardrobe.

The boy readjusts his shoulder bag which contains clamped sheets of bond paper, a sketch pad, colored pencils bound with rubber band, a Tupperware of mixed cheap local chocolate candies, and a peanut butter sandwich.

“You’re not from around, here are you?” The mailman on a bicycle appears out of nowhere, as he then held the tip of his cap with his index finger and his thumb, pacing himself with the boy. Not a lint on his navy-blue coat uniform and he wears a white undershirt with a bowtie.

“You are a stowaway, aren’t you?”

“No sir, I am not!” Retorted the boy, almost angrily. The mailman then examined the boy with a lingering look from head to toe.

“I’m on my way home after fetching some of the dried fruits my grandmother is selling and took them to the market on the other side of the mountain.” The boy further explains.

“Good then, I trust you if you say so, besides, I always wander around these parts myself when I was a lot younger too. On the other thought, I heard you shouting something from back there. Forgive me, I’m not eavesdropping or anything like that, around here you can hear even the softest whisper, or a stumble of a small rock from a definitive distance.”

The boy was a bit embarrassed but hides this to the stranger. His face turned red though. He then pays him a soft affirmation with a short answer “it must have echoed.” And the mailman agrees.

“Um yes, I was just talking to myself out loud, it’s sort of a habit. Why? Do you think that’s weird?”

“Well, the world is filled with much weirder things.” The mailman replied.

“Weirder things?” the boy repeated. The boy stops walking for a while, turning his head following the man with his now narrowing eyes.

“Please allow me to explain. I mean for one, folks nowadays don’t’ read anymore. They spend most of the time watching TV than enjoying this, right here. They do less and complain much more each day.”

“That’s what I like about my job you know? I get to enjoy riding and passing by these parts every day, and I never get tired of it. I am the link between two distant lovers through their letters, the bearer of enveloped truth, may it be good or bad, all the correspondences that people value. I would like to think of myself as the caretaker of hope in a way.”

“You do the same things every day? I don’t know kids in my neighborhood that can stand that. We’re always up to something different each day” – the boy wondered.

“Well you’re still young of course, and you want to do many exciting things I’m sure. Your case is different. You’ll realize what I mean when the time comes.”

“But that doesn’t make my case any less exciting. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I guess the secret is learning to enjoy the little things. And I see that now, every day I take joy in having the opportunity to fall in love over and over with every unfolding flower and appreciating their varying colors, being able to hum along with the rustling of the leaves as I cruise these parts. When it becomes lonely, the buzzing bees are my companion, they are far hardworking than I am, so I guess, they make me want to better myself.”

“And when the circumstance won’t allow me to visit the hillside or the lake, like when it rains hard like moments ago, I go to my books while sipping a good cup of hot chocolate, teach my sister’s kids a thing or two, helping them with their studies, or I go visit the city library two blocks away from where I live. “

“I still don’t get it, how is it weird?” Asks the boy, now walking after the stranger interested. The boy does not understand what the mailman was saying. After all, he’s just a kid. The words are too big for him

“How do I put this?” The mailman then maneuvers over in front of the boy and squeezed on the brakes.

“You know how everybody feels and thinks that they need to do something very significant with their lives, say something bigger than them, to be someone perhaps, or to be known, leaving behind lasting marks on the face of the earth? Say like superheroes?

“Yes.” The boy finally understands.

“Well, I think it is just plain silly that most people are convinced that by complaining while holding the remote control watching the news will do the trick for them.”

“Change and Apathy are not good bedfellows you see?”

“I get it.” Says the boy.

“By the way, what do you mean by saving the world?” returned the mailman breaking a smile on his face, “You don’t mean aliens do you? You don’t strike me as a member of a secret government organization.” He follows this with an uncontrollable laugh. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking you or anything, it’s just that, you reminded me of a character in a book that I once read.”

“No, it’s okay, I was rehearsing. That was a line from a school play I am in. I should be able to memorize the lines by the end of the week or else I am screwed.”

“I also wrote the play by the way.”

The mailman was impressed, nods while scratching the temple of his face.

“But now that you mentioned it, I kind of like the idea of me really saving the world one day, or at least contributing something very significant.” the boy continued.

“And how are you supposed to do that? I hope you don’t mind me asking.”

The boy gave it a quick thought and gets back to the cyclist. “No I don’t mind it at all, in fact, that’s a good point. I never thought about it until now, but I’m guessing that there are a lot of things that you could do.”

“Like how, what’s in your mind, my young friend?”

“Well for one, and I may be oversimplifying things here, but if only I could find the right story to write about to show everyone. Stories that really matter, like yours Mr. Mailman, I’m sure that many people would be very interested in your story.”

“But it needs to be well played. As you said, we all play an important role.”

“I don’t know about my story, but yeah, I second what you are trying to say” – the mailman feeling a bit embarrassed himself.

Then the sun behind the thick monochrome clouds appeared, revealing the rest of the steel railway line ahead, and the mist is slowly but definitely starting to vanish. The distance appears to be long, but he realizes that it is the pathway to his destination, nonetheless, leading him to the clearing.

The kid knew that he’ll never be the same. The words that he needs to memorize now fluttered inside him. His inked fingers can’t wait to reconcile with the pen, and he felt freed by the encounter he just had.

And he reckoned that he is on a mission after all.

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These Days

Early breakfast on the road and a cool brush by the breeze through my uncombed morning hair were the firsts on the list. As I help myself, rolling down the tinted passenger seat window, catching the first glimpse of what could be an opening of a perfect season after the long monsoon rains. With the windshield wipers no longer in use, the rain is now dripping down the glass pane. As I was urging myself on going somewhere distant, I am not sure if it is somewhere uphill but the road I am on was definitely taking me somewhere new.  Something has gotten into me, a sense of urgency to take advantage while the world is still half asleep, a reckless abandon of some sort, looking for that great escape.

I then looked up and see a lingering, thick contrail from the jet exhaust streaming across the stretch of the sky, a long vertical line that sketched the sky fluffy white. I checked my backpack for anything to munch on and found a half done sandwich that I had after a few beers. Everything is going neatly so far that the entire experience showers me with high hopes of leaving behind the remains of last night, covering the stench with a couple of hours of sleep later, hoping not to remember.

And the day is already breaking.

The world truly does not owe us anything. I was thinking that my only rescue now is to catch the first waves of the sun tides.  I was moving my head from side to side looking for a clearing from the open road by the cliff as we make a right turn after passing through the tunnel. We had to take a longer route since the fault was at its dangerous that time. My hands are shaking because of the cold, yet still very eager to create something beautiful with whatever the blotted ink from my pen can lend me. Yearning for a far cry inspiration, I picked out a past dated reading material from the dashboard compartment, popping the lid open with a hammering motion of my right fist. An old newspaper or was it a travel magazine? I can’t remember exactly, but It was dated sometime 2001. “Not bad” I murmured to myself, for it was like time traveling all the same and I can use that for reference I figured, giving an undeserving applause to myself. And somehow I realized that the course we were threading on was much better. It was from those after meal thoughts and the open-free spaces in between towns and the quiet celebration from a flick of my cigarette that validated this glide the right thing to do at the time. For it was by far the warmest after the cold. And the ease of the lift of my facial muscles seemed sustainable and could seem to last a lifetime. It really surprised me on how easy it was all of a sudden.

A very good friend had once told me over a glass of rum, that our realizations and the wisdom that comes along with it, are all emanating from the affirmation that sometime soon after we are long gone, we will be just a part of a punch line in the short stories being told. It would probably start with a short visual reference from one of your favorite self-portrait photographs carefully placed in the family album or perhaps if lucky, you’ll be remembered when the index cards of the recipe box you once filled and treasured, was opened and used during some yearly household occasion.  You’ll be in a way, like a transistor radio or a technicolor television set with giant capacitors and wooden shutters that was boxed and locked up in a room somewhere.

I turned the knob of the car radio a notch higher while lip-synching to a plastic record, and for a moment there we were shaking our heads senseless and doing these random unrehearsed movements from our seats. We were, in our own weird ways, happy.

Past the varying heights of the trees, while the sun is playing hide and seek behind each, and the varying shades of greens of the hills color the feeling, I can’t help but compare. That it was definitely a different view from what laid days before. The haunting and casting shadows on the moonlight floor were no longer there, and all of the episodes were nothing but of a distant memory now, in my chest to be safely kept and yet to be seen again but not now, not at this very moment.

Through the fast open sky, and past the telephone wires that fenced the mountains and the slopping landscapes of the north and the infinite blue skies ceiling above us, I watched the wheels that spun so fast through the side mirrors, our speed made the white-highway-broken- lines appear to be this long and endless straight marker directing us towards the end and the beginning of a circle. Our tomorrows may or may not be there, but I will relish the flip of the coin, playing through over each finger as I tap my feet to the waltz of this familiar song.

And somehow it felt like we were slowly getting off the ground, we were almost flying.  A shift in perception or just an ordinary optical illusion, I could not really tell and it did not matter. For what I had there was not of this world and yet it felt it was.

Twenty-two degrees on an 80 kph freeway for as long as I have my polarized lenses on, my past dated magazines and plastic records – I am there, crashing through the walls of the uncertainty of history, trying to live in a story worth telling.

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Sunlight Supernova

It was like a black and white photograph that you see along the staircases of your home, a happy memory captured in time slicing through the open spaces of the realities and the nine-millimeter frames.  I woke up realizing that I have dreamt something beautiful this morning, something that took me to the bluest skies that one would see in a canvass of sunflowers and daffodils, tangerine fields and golden mango summer days. I wandered off, over and across the horizons with the feathered pilots in flight, doing their routine of salutations, passing through and by the cloud formations that were tasked to do a portrayal of the world they see below, a beautiful imitation, a sculpting rendition from the shape-shifters of the light. The white paint of the ceiling, the walls of the bedroom, the slow dancing of the curtains highlight the sun showers that invited themselves just to help out, lending a hand to magnify the unfolding of the hopeful summer feeling stemming from within.

Lying next to me is a warm, beautifully placed tanned body with all the white sheets and the cushions that cradled us into slumber the night before. And for someone like me, it is only fitting to throw the most fundamental questions of how and why it got there in the first place. As I found myself dumbfounded, she slowly opened her brown almond-shaped eyes, then a long lingering look directly aiming into my prying eyes. She then surveyed the rest of my face, from the forehead down to my buttoned nose, on the sides, chin and the cheeks while taking her time and breaking this gentle smile as she then rested her gaze right back to where it all started.  She then whispered something in my ear, some thoughts about cotton candies and marshmallows and vanilla ice cream and brewed coffee while tucking her face between my shoulder and my jawline, as I now feel the warmth of her breath on the left side of my neck.

As I give in, I suddenly felt the need to dispense this undeniable sensation, sneaking my right arm around my universe, wrapping my present and my tomorrows within the reach of my arms and my left and right hands’ fingertips, holding onto my supernova.

I suddenly got the feeling of when you are on the beach, raptured by this unsolicited fulfillment, sitting and listening to the crashing of the waves against your feet. The warm welcome of the inviting ocean, plunging in while rediscovering and relishing the sunlight on your imperfect skin and stained shirt, as the saltiness of the waters and the powdery promises of the sands of time are all you ever needed for the remainders of your days.

I took a few drags after lighting a cigarette and opened a book reading a couple of chapters from where I left off.  It took me a while to realize that it was the world I am living in that the words were describing. I held her hand next to my chest. We were slouching and care freed by the open windows with our sunglasses on, with crossed legs and our weekend smiles.  Coffee and Vanilla ice cream, Root beers and Jack Johnson, conversations after conversations, we talked about finding answers and an aimless attempt to look for an escape and what solitude really means, on how to outlast father time and getting the most out of each conscious moment and decisions.  And from the openings of her brilliance, she made something out of the blowing winds and the subtleness of the ether as she paints the canvass through her imagination of life brushes and watercolors.

Some would prefer to throw a peace sign and be on TV all greased and combed up, neatly dressed and all buttoned up, calling out everyone to put out a flag but for me, I prefer her way.  Just an honest display of what was and what we aspire to be at.  I guess all we ever needed was our sun, and a few bucks to get us by with our words and cigarettes.

But life most of the times is not as colorful as the stories we read from all the pages we encounter.  In a way, what we get from these dog-eared pages is just the fuel that help gets us going from one town to the next rest stop for another gas pump.  And after paying for what’s due, there’s always this invitation to make a phone call with a few spare change that we have got, to give thanks to the ones that made the journey possible and true.

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Chapter 2: A Conversation with a Peculiar Friend

It was 09:30 pm.  I was watching all of the outlining lights of the city from my apartment terrace view while finishing a good bowl of freshly heated ramen from the microwave. Something caught my attention. As I moved my head upwards to my right, just across from where I sat, I saw what appeared to be an audience.  There sat a frog, smoking its long and lean wooden pipe. Apparently, it was not just any ordinary frog.  I could tell from the prints and the design of his robe.  He was sporting a well-maintained facial hair growing from his small chin, the strands were grayish white, telling me that he’s been around for quite some time.  He had his legs crossed together, while awkwardly dabbling his webbed toes in the air.  He was sitting on the edge portion of the neighboring roof and he’s always been doing the same routine for years.

Of course, I never knew this since my family just moved into a new home.  We had financial difficulties since my father died and wanted to start over.

As a matter of etiquette and good manners, I signaled to him if he wanted some of what I was having — raising the bowl chin high and directing the chopsticks towards it.

“I had flies. Thank you.” With a mischievous smile on his face, the frog politely declined.  He then followed it with what you can say an offensive remark.

“You’re not the neighbor I was expecting to have.”

I had to ask why of course, almost choking on a string of noodle.

“My dreams told me that the next neighbor is the one who’s going to help me with my mathematics. I was observing you these past days, and I can’t see any signs at all that you have what it takes.  I think you’re a slacker, you just stare at photographs in your phone and you have a nasty habit of picking your nose.”

For a while there I felt very insulted. This is not the type of conversation you have at first meetings.  But I know his kind. Old folks tend to speak this way. They would go about it as if it is their inherent and social right or something.  My old professor spoke like this frog and it kind of reminded me of him. We were good friends until he went abroad for his treatments.

As the hundreds of matchbox lights from the façade of the buildings paint a mosaic landscape, the frog and I had started conversing.  We talked about a lot of interesting things.  My favorite was about the undiscovered colors that he dreamt about. These were colors that this world hasn’t seen yet. And it had something to do with our eyes he said, preventing us from really seeing.

The cold September breeze on that silent Tuesday evening called for it, I guess. While the hot broth slowly loses its warmth, replacing it with the oddity of that night, I was taken to places in my mind that I thought never existed.

The stranger then opened about his long-lost love. He began by telling the story on how they first met.

He was in his younger self squatting on a pond leaf under the biggest moon of that year. The fireflies that lingered about, just far enough for him to reach were the brightest stars that night.

He was instructed by his mother to hunt for pond flies that nested on the very surface of the still waters.  “Be one with the leaf” she said, “and hold very still to have a successful hunt. Have the required patience.”  He was waiting for hours for the right timing when a more experienced frog easily snatches his prey away.  She was hunting from a tip of the tree branch just over the pond. And from the moment he laid his eyes on her long, lightning-speed whipping tongue, he knew that she was the one.

As he was going over the story, I went inside and poured us some ginger juice and got something to smoke. And when I came back, I pinched a fingertip of tobacco from my cigarette into his empty wooden pipe and offered him a light.

“Have you met yours?” he wondered staring blankly to the sky.

I said I was not sure. And even if have, it wouldn’t matter. She was gone already and there was no point of remembering a tragic story. It would only bring you regrets and keep you awake most nights.

He smoked his long wooden pipe, blowing feebly into the air and nods.

I scratched my bearded jaw and rested my numbing head placing the whole weight in the open palm. And from time to time I was unconsciously nail-biting and dozing while the neighbors were watching their endless drama anthology on TV.

“Are they always like this every night?” The old frog just smiled away. I knew that he had learned to accept it, the same way that he had accepted the loss of his greatest love.

I felt sad for him. As if I was in the singularity of the black hole of his loneliness. It felt like I was never going anywhere, at the same time drifting away.

“A once healthy body is now starting to deteriorate as the numbers of time are catching up. You’d realize just about before it ends that your life as you know it had already passed you by along with all the unspoken questions in your lifetime. The answers had sailed far away into the oceans of the wandering and the forgotten.”

It was almost a mumble, but I heard the old frog’s every word.

Then I responded by saying that it was not my intention to make him feel sad, but I was so glad all the same for the chance. For these are the exact words I thought had slipped away from my writing hands fifty ink cartridges ago.  And I never had the opportunity to hear the reading of these lines out loud.

“And all the anecdotes and old love letters may seem nostalgic now, but I hope you’d agree with me when your time to scribble has finally come.” It was almost an attempt to cheer him up. But I couldn’t tell if it was working or not.  He just repositioned his right leg placing his knee right next to his shoulder and puffed on his wooden pipe, displaying his mischievous smile while the subtle whistling of the eastern winds and the throbbing percussion of the monsoon rains started to come and drenched us hopeful and drunk.