day in the park
a cat eats weed flowers. my dog sits on the bird bath. a mom spreads a picnic blanket for baby’s feeding bottles. three crows swoop in on my bag of popcorn. a weed flower sticks to my dress.
the baby drools. on her blue bib. the sky turns golden.
i gather my crumbs under the blooming junipers. i pull up a heather. a squirrel flies over my head on a twig.
my heather turns blue. the baby picks a dandelion. the sun slides down. over skies a swarm of snowbirds fly home. i have no wings.
silence is not the absence of sound. a sheer wall in the mind perhaps. a blockade for the heart. one cannot hear a heartbeat. the whooshing of blood in and out of ventricles. blubbering air in the lungs. a grumbling emptiness in guts. random complaints from muscles trapped in passions.
silence as gaping space traps what fills air waves. winds that fissures slurp. secrets blossoms share. coughing of uncouth machines. grating wheels those dumpsters edging out magpies. the cawing of crows to be understood. marble chirps colliding with fresh acorns among the pines. sonatas on toes around the rim of dreams.
births are seeded in silence. in secret. the first cry is a child of silence. wakefulness its gender.
first day of the year. just another grey day. a pall on the new calendar. as if what makes a difference really doesn’t.
the ticking clock. a distant squawking of a crow or better yet, complaint. deep sigh of engines passing by. the trudge goes on.
i look on the cypress with a creeping sense of sorrow. the deep cold dark in its twigs. holiday gifts piled beside it now debris.
a black garbage bag rests folded in the bin.
i gather the cards. wishes slide off my fingers. a bag of pebbles waits to be planted in the vase. like wishes that might take root, i would have to water them each day.
blue notes waver in the light. as if there’s something i should know.
death still on the shore. no breath lapping sand. the bay water clear as eyes. a selvage edge of secrets. a quiet suspiration under a translucent film of air. a shimmer that wavers underneath over shell shards.
emptied mollusks. spawning stones. furry algae. fibrous weeds.
dead still but not sealed. only walled in. like your eyes, when you stare within. an absent look. a vacant thought. like i’m not there.
Alegria Imperial (jornales) won a Commended Award, traditional category, in The Haiku Foundation 2012 Haiku Now Contest, and has published haiku, tanka, haibun and haiga in eucalypt, GUSTS, LYNX online, The Heron’s Nest, Notes from the Gean and Sketchbook. One of her haiku was included in The Haiku Foundation’s daily feature “Per Diem” while two of her free verses can be read in Magnapoets 2011 anthologies 1 and 2.
tanka from English, to Spanish and Iluko
…tri-lingual in English, Spanish and Iluko, the language (dialect) I was born with but hardly spoke and never wrote with from my early teens, when I moved to the city for university, until two years ago when it reawoke, first in a Yahoo group and later in a website I stumbled upon. Iluko, a dialect of the northern-most edge of the Philippine archipelago, traces its roots to Austronesian languages. Like most of the major Philippine dialects (87 of them not counting sub-tongues), Iluko tends to be metaphorical and thus poetic. Melded in its spirit is Spanish, introduced by the colonizers 400 years ago — not only as a language but a culture and a soul, both of which we, Filipinos but specifically Ilokanos, can hardly discern on the conscious level. English sort of flowed in only in the past century, easily so because the Spaniards had by then changed our alphabet from what was believed to be Sanskrit to Roman. I believe that when I write I do so from three cultures uniquely one, uniquely mine. But I began explaining all three when one day, I took a break from the haiku that I usually post in my personal blog and in reply to someone who got to my blog, searching for the word willow in Pilipino, I wrote as follows.
Citing the absence of a Pilipino (or Iluko) word for willow tree demonstrates how language is deeply entrenched in culture: the totality of one’s being layered over by influences of earth, air, water, living things, language whispered, sung, murmured, chanted, stated, shouted, screamed, written for one to read under fluorescent light, Coleman light-flood, moonlight, candle light — how we whine and laugh and cuddle up wordless or word-full, with what flowers we offer our sighs, what trees we carve arrow-pierced hearts into, from what looming shadows we scamper away, what wings we shoot down, from what edges of cliffs we plunge off to get to our dreams.
In languages like mine born of life, a borrowed word — just one, say cry or sob — fails to bring out how anug-og in Iluko pictures a bent figure broken in grief, shaking with spasms of pain, sobbing an animal cry that escapes from the depth of caves. Or saning-i, one of my favorite words, portrays someone — usually a woman in a dark corner, splayed on the floor, propped on the wall, the neckline of her dress dropped, the hem of her dress carelessly gathered — deeply hurt, flayed in spirit, melting in helplessness, too enfeebled to even scream or sob, simply shaking with sorrow in what sounds like staccato coughing broken by wet sniffles. Saning-i is also the cry of a child suffering from chronic hunger pain, as in children whipped into living skeletons due to kwashiorkor, or a baby burning with fever.
Language is as mysterious as the spirit, indeed.
No, dear friend who’s asking if there is a translation of willow tree in Pilipino, there’s none I’m aware of. None of our trees have looked as sorrowful, sometimes sinister — under Philippine skies that stars perforate, crowns of mangoes and some other trees sparkle. No, nothing that does not belong can be a match, can be translated.
In these three tanka, I used all three languages my soul speaks with. The English translations are mine, as are the Spanish, but edited by Sr. Javier Galvan y Guijo, director of Instituto Cervantes in Oran, Algeria. The Spanish translations are more or less word-for-word except for particularities of Spanish in terms of number agreement.
among the willows
the wind sometimes listens
steals from ripples of the lake
our secret sighs
entre los sauces
el viento a veces oye
roba de las ondas del lago
nuestros suspiros secretos
no dadduma agan-aningas ti angin
mangtakaw iti apges ti luok
dagiti limed a sen-senaayta
NOTES: In Iluko, there are no definite prepositions; kadigiti in the poem indicates “among.” Also, the present tense in the word “listen(s)” serves well enough to actively refer to the action of listening, but in Iluko is not enough, hence the use of the participle, as in agan-aningas (listening), compounding the first syllable. Also, the plural form in Iluko is not a suffix, but similar to the way a participle is formed, is made by compounding the first syllable, as in sen-senaayta (sighs). Again, while in both Spanish and English, “ours” is another word, it is a suffix, -ta, as in sen-sennaayta (whispers) in Iluko.
any which way
leaves and sparrows flutter
even fall in the wind
so unlike downcast hearts
rooted among stones
de cualquier forma
las hojas y los gorriones revolotean
incluso los lleva el viento
a diferencia de los corazónes abatidos
arraigado entre las piedras
agampayag latta dagiti bulbulong ken bulilising
matnagda pay ketdi babaen ti angin
saan a kas dagiti nalimdo a puspuso
a nagramut kadigiti batbato
NOTE: The adverbial clause in the first line, “any which way,” translates in Iluko as uray kasano. The word uray has no equivalent in English and Spanish, though in this line, it is used to mean “whichever.” Also, the simple present tense in the verb agampayagda (they flutter) works here because it has a pair in matnagda (they fall) in the next line. “In the wind” would be directly translated as ti angin, but in Iluko, it makes better sense with the use of babaen (because) in the third line. Notice the suffix -da in the verb matnagda, cited above to indicate “them,” referring to the bulbulong (leaves) and bulilising (sparrows). In the last line, the past tense — “rooted” — is indicated with the prefix nag-.
fallen leaf in the garden
only the wind can lift it up
or leave it to its fate
without the wind for thoughts
destiny ends each day
la hoja caida en el jardin
sólamente el viento lo puede levantar
o seguira su destino
si no viento por los pensamientos
estos destinos se fini cada dia
tinnag a bulong iti hardin
ti angin laeng ti makaipalais
wenno makaibati iti kapaayanna
no awan ti angin iti likud dagiti pampanunot
malpas ti gasgasat iti inaldaw
NOTES: The modal auxiliary verb “can” is a prefix makai-, as in makaiplais (can lift it up) and makaibati (leave it) in Iluko. Also, notice how agreement of numbers and verbs in Iluko follows the Spanish rule: los pensamientos/estos destinos translate as pampanunot (“thoughts,” with compounded first syllable) and gasgasat (destiny). To use the plural, “destinies,” in the English version to me would be awkward.
Alegria Imperial has had forty years of writing and media work, public relations and marketing from staff to managerial positions in government, educational and cultural institutions in the Philippines before she started to write poetry and fiction. She has won a few awards, and had been published in literary journals in print and online, including The Cortland Review, poeticdiversity.org, and LYNX. She now lives in Vancouver, BC. Read her essays on Philippine topics at Filipineses and her haiku at jornales.