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Harminio S. Beltran, Jr.
Harminio S. Beltran, Jr.
We called you “Bad Egg”.
Officially, you were Helen
Even as you wore boxer shorts
And sleeveless undershirts
And challenged the boys
To sparring sessions in your front yard
Under the santol* tree where the chickens
Would roost for the night.
When you were 7, your father slapped
That loquacious classmate of yours
Who revealed to you a story
She had heard from her neighbors:
You were picked by a childless couple
From an orphanage where a victim of incest
Left you in the care of nuns.
You declared your new name, George,
When you started strumming the guitar
And dedicating your songs to the girls
Excited at coloring their lips and eyebrows.
At 15, you began drinking the nights away
With “brothers” at the town beer pub,
Exchanging jokes with curvaceous salesgirls.
At 17, you became a celebrity frequenting
The town jail after turning your mother’s
Aparador upside down, breaking her chinaware,
Selling her altar pieces to antique dealers,
Terrorizing her guests in prayer meetings.
At 19, you brought home the town pub owner,
A woman of means who scissored all your boxer shorts,
Pants and undershirts after she discovered
You were writing letters to the new nurse
In the health center.
The poor woman took a bottle of insecticide
When the nurse took her place in your love nest.
At 21, you left everything to travel to the North
To find that mysterious mother of yours
Who haunted you in your wildest nightmares.
You found instead a grandmother awaiting her death
And after confirming your adoptive father’s secret
Offered to send you to the most expensive school
That would teach you etiquette, inculcate in you
Discipline to make you a worthy member of the family.
Again you packed
Your boxer shorts, pants and undershirts.
Home is never without a santol tree
Whose branches offer hands to hold bad eggs.
*santol a tree that bears round sour fruits
LAST WALK ALONG GALICIA, LEPANTO
& P. NOVAL STREETS, SAMPALOC
I walked these roads for thirty years
Stepping over potholes & dogshit,
Turning left or right, crossing
When traffic turns a red
eye & hurrying
To cast a blank mind on locked
Gates & windowless
Buildings, homes turned
Shops for crowds
That pass as
Queues in the mindless-
ness of my passing, buses
& tricyles reminding
That arriving is
& that small corners
I leave behind
Are worlds as large
As the ponds I wade in when
The rains overemphasize
Their presence with
Floods that hide like well-
of dirt and dreams
all such city
Streets despite the many
Years that walk us to
Paradises within our
* * *
TRANSFERRING TO A NEW HOUSE
Saying goodbye to walls bearing the imprint
Of your travel through outdated calendars
Marked with appointments you could not afford
To miss, and posters of events you like to be reminded of
Always, and gift tags bearing greetings from friends
Is not the cruelest telenovela scene before the truck
By its mere presence in front of the house
Announces the impending end to a wishfully dignified
Residency in a drug addict-infested district.
Packing in boxes memories and riches of thirty years
Before loading imposes a silence
Akin to a moment of awe, suspense in a circus
Performance. No tears, only silence deep
As a sigh over secrets and garbage
In full view as you sweep away the non-essentials
And retrieve details. You reconsider which weighs
Heavier, the past or the future.
The burden is in knowing what have come to be
You. With memories guiding the rehearsals, you continue to dance
With rhythms of the unknown, next to your skin, to the music
You may not have had the wisdom or privilege to choose
But have come, like sitting on the sofa after all that waltzing,
To find a long-sought breather in.
* * *
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