Monday, December 19, 2005

What's Left

to my father

Some things leave us like a sigh. Your father,
puffing out his chest, with no fanfare,
walked out on your family for another.

When he returned to live off you and mother,
he filled our two-room flat with his sour air.
Some things should leave us: a sigh like your father.

No one among your seven sisters and brothers
would take him in. For ten years, you took care
to leave him alone polishing, one after another,

his walking trophies—applying wax to smother
the golden tokens while listening in his chair
for something. Leaving us. Sighing, your father

tuned his battered radio to a voice farther
than yours, not once asking his son to repair
what’s left or trade the set in for another.

His funeral rounded up your sisters and brothers.
The women wailed. You were the only heir
of something leaving, like a sigh. Your father.

An early version of this poem was published in "Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry" ed. Aaron Lee, Alvin Pang, Krip Yuson and Rayvi Sunico, 2002.


Messalina said...

Hey Jee,

I found this really moving - and keep coming back to re-read.

Did you mean to keep "our" in L2 of S2?

Meander Knot Press said...

We love your poems and wrote a post saying so today. I particularly like the repeated sigh in this one.

eothen said...


i saw this in its first incarnation in 'Love Gathers All' and liked it. but i prefer this one - the use of form here serves it very well, methinks. i can't remember offhand exactly what that first version was like, but this feels like a relatively kinder portrayal of the grandfather, and a more ambivalent portrayal of the father (???).

'walking trophies' coming after 'walking out' - haha (in a good way). :)

Oh and i've finally managed to finish reading 'Ode On A Grecian Urn' without falling asleep, and 'Cold Pastoral' makes more sense now.

:) Rui
*not a lover of Romantic poetry*

Larry said...


I shudder to recall a crit I gave this with a very stupid tone.

Either you changed what I then disliked or I've mellowed, I quite like this. Still a line or two strike me as less than good, but mostly a lot of complex and vivid storytelling and emotion.

Probably the multiple use of sigh-father is what isn't totally working for me.

Well, my late apologies for that old crit.