The Night He Came

(To Pedrito Pineda, an obscure Filipino scholar and student leader, who died
fighting for his people's freedom from the old and bloated system that reduces
the Philippines into penury and subtle slavery)

He came to say goodbye.
He held the cup of coffee I handed him
like an unforgiving eagle clutching its helpless prey.
He sipped it with dire curiosity
as though it were the very first
or the very last time to take coffee.
It was midnight and the rushing rain
was the only sound that I could hear,
save from my loud heartbeats.
When he unexpectedly came at late night like this
I knew I had to really be myself
and take the excruciating role of a brother.
His presence was painful, but liberating.
The town was tight asleep
despite the foreboding flood.
He said he came to say goodbye.
It was too dark and the rain
was willing to rampage until the following morning.
Words, sweet and sad, had no meaning
and he would not listen:
he was determined to follow his heart.
Following one's heart, he always believed,
is the end and all of life.
Which is why he, Quitong, my brother,
was a perennial slave to the voice whispering within him.

With heavy feet he walked out of the door.
And the next time I saw him he was dead, but free:
a pair of bullet holes on his forehead
is like a child's fresh eyes wide open to capture
the sun, calm like the morning dew clinging on grass and leaves.

2007 Underground Voices