Poems by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles, translated by Kristine Ong Muslim • Empty Mirror

two-thirty / credit: emtwo-thirty / credit: em

Reptile

He had been visited
by countless frogs
and snakes were nesting
in his room.
Although he was always trapped
between trepidation and awe,
he relished each encounter
as forewarning,
as ultimate realization
of his potential.
One night, he snatched
a rat from his chest
and grinned as he tore it open
with his teeth.

Reptilya

Dinalaw siya
ng sanlaksang palaka
at may mga ahas na nakiidlip
sa kanyang silid.
Bagama’t laging sumasagila
ang kaba’t pagkamangha,
inaangkin niyang bawat gayong engkuwentro’y
isang antimanong pagtiyak,
pagtiyap sa kaganapan
ng sariling kamandag.
Isang gabi, dinukot niya
ang daga sa dibdib
at nakangising binistay
sa pagitan ng kanyang mga ngipin.

Among the Ruins

I wish we’re still farther away
from tonight’s destination.
Now that we can almost count
our every step.
We sit among the shadows
of the trees in the grassland.
Old melancholy
waits for us
at the edge of our imagined world.
I wish we’re still farther away from our destination
even if we travel while grounded
by exhaustion. We must never
fear ending up among the ruins.

Sa Mga Guho

Sana’y malayo pa
ang ating patutunguhan ngayong gabi.
Ngayong halos nabibilang
ang ating mga hakbang.
Nakiupo tayo sa mga anino
ng mga puno sa damuhan.
May lumang lumbay
na nakaabang sa atin
sa dulo ng mithing daigdig.
Sana’y malayo pa ang ating patutunguhan
maglakbay man tayong nagsasalikop
ang pagod. Hindi tayo kailanman
matatakot humantong sa mga guho.

Comrade

Here, on opposite
sides of the station,
we are separated from each other
by separate
and adjacent railways.
One leads to that direction.
The other leads here.
Between us, who goes
where? To what end?
Deviating from, alternating:
our paths,
something I do not
want to believe. True,
we have met once.
But that was only because
you came back for me
after setting out for
a long trip.
Now you are ready
to travel again;
as for me, I fervently
wait. Breaking away,
comrade, is just another way
to reunite.

Kasama

Dito sa magkabilang
panig ng estasyon,
pinaghiwalay tayo
ng magkahiwalay
at magkasikbay na riles.
Isang patungo roon.
Isang patungo rito.
Sino sa atin ang patungo
saan? Saang hangganan?
Masasabing lihis, salisi,
ang ating landas,
subalit ayokong ganap
na maniwala. Tama,
nagkasalubong tayo.
Subalit yun ay dahil
binalikan mo ako
matapos maihanda
ang malayo-layong kilometro.
Ngayon ay handa
ka nang muling maglakbay;
ako naman ay talagang
naghihintay. Ang paghihiwalay,
kasama, ay paraan
lamang ng pagtatagpo.

Postscript

I don’t remember anything. I am talking to him. When there’s something that needs to be said. But not once have we actually talked. As fast as the wind blows, I step closer to him. To myself.

Postscript

Wala akong matandaan. Kinakausap ko siya. Kapag may kailangang sabihin. Pero hindi kami nagkausap kahit minsan. Simbilis ng hangin akong humakbang palapit sa kanya. Sa sarili.

Kristine Ong Muslim

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of nine Business Relationships, including the short fiction collections Age of Blight (Unnamed Press, 2016), Butterfly Dream (Snuggly Books, 2016), and The Drone Outside (Eibonvale Press, 2017), as well as the poetry collections Lifeboat (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2015), Meditations of a Beast (Cornerstone Press, 2016), and Black Arcadia (University of the Philippines Press, 2017). She is co-editor of two anthologies—the British Fantasy Award-winning People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction and Sigwa: Climate Fiction Anthology from the Philippines, an illustrated volume forthcoming from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Press. Widely anthologized, her short stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Dazed Digital, Tin House, and World Literature Today. She grew up and continues to live in a mountainous rural town in Maguindanao.

Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles

Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles is the author of 20 books of and about poetry, most recently the bilingual edition Walang Halong Biro (De La Salle University Publishing House, 2018) with translations by Kristine Ong Muslim, a volume of selected poems, Ang Iyong Buhay ay Laging Mabibigo (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2016), and a three-volume poetry series—Talik (2017), Antares (2018), and Mujeres Publicas (2019)—all from Balangay Books. Kristine Ong Muslim’s translations of his two books—Hollow and Three Books—are forthcoming this year from Fernwood Press and Broken Sleep Books, respectively. His works and interests encompass books, conceptual writing, translation, film and video, installation, found objects, and text-based experimentation. His erasure projects continue to explore and expand on the concepts of, among others, time and memory, language and loss, identity and anonymity, and sex and intimacy. A recipient of multiple national awards—including the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and Maningning Miclat Poetry Award—and fellowships from the University of the Philippines National Writers’ Workshop and the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center National Workshop on Art and Cultural Criticism, Arguelles is a three-time finalist for the National Book Award. He works as a book editor and translator, and teaches literature and creative writing at De La Salle University in Manila.

Business Relationships Book