Tomas, understand:

it has become my habit

to make the sign of the cross

when passing by any tower

with a crucifix on top. Who would have thought

that not all cross-bearing edifices

are God’s sanctuaries? Ripples of giggles

swelled in my ears and flowed through my skin,

slowly becoming as pink as a pomelo.

You should have told me about it, Tomas,

just like how you have warned me

of rivers and seas and waterfalls

overflowing in August, breeding ditches

and mutant fishes. I could feel their tentacles

at my feet, creeping up to my knees,

encompassing my thighs. How I dreaded

to tread, let alone swim, in that

ocean of muck, Tomas,

but it is nothing compared to the monsters

you bred: the Cyclops camouflaging in the form

of unblinking nights with the computer,

circles forming under my eyes, and the

Minotaur in your mind-boggling labyrinths

masked as misleading questions designed

to make me lose my path. Tomas,

you subject me to these tortures, only to be redeemed

by fireworks culminating every year,

a burst of green and red and yellow

(and the whole ensemble of rainbows)

lighting up the sky, as faces like mine

watched in awe for four Decembers. I reveled

in their beauty, though a measly consolation

for a year’s unsolicited scourging. But,

if given a chance, Tomas,

to walk between the arch of ancient stones

(said to bring one back to the past)

once again, I will gladly do so:

to return to one’s roots, like a wounded child

searching for his mother’s embrace, or a cub

READ
Clean air hazards

returning to its home, its first prey

dangling between its tiny, bloodied fangs.

Myla Jasmine U. Bantog

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