• Singing her the Lullabies on Grey Afternoons

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    The lullaby has a long poetic tradition. In these poems, I try to capture the rhythm of those songs that are invariably sung to put people (babies) to sleep. (How bad can they get? Or how gentle?)

    The Snowman Lullaby

    Close your eyes and fairy lights will lead you
    Away from the dark and gloom that scare you:
    In your dreams, do you run through brackish snow?
    Climb leafless trees or swing from a broken bough?
    Where the river bends, do you gather rotting fish,
    Glean carrion left from a summer’s fishing mess?
    Has the snowman’s head fallen off its melting body?
    Its stick hands twisted like pretzels. Arrows really.
    The carrot nose has become its stabbing tooth,
    Where both eyes were, now Cyclops orb is left
    On a conehead of dripping snow; a crushed face
    Stares blankly at a mid-day sun whose lapping rays
    Forebode another season for yet another reason
    To accept that what lives is also ripe for destruction.
    (O, my aching heart,it aches, it hurts, It hurts badly, it hurts to the core.
    Kindly spare me your gentle nurture,
    For I dread death’s coming spectre.)

    The Wind Lullaby

    Close your eyes and let the wind rip through
    Tears and cracks and cranny and broken doors, too.
    Grip the tightened string on your wayward kite,
    No wind could wreck nor snap it loose from flight.
    You will ride the wind, my boy, and touch the sun,
    Though frightful prayers plead that you must run
    From the dreams that have become nightmares,
    From the fallen kites; run from the fearsome snares.
    Life is a trap, much like the burlap waiting downstream,
    When you get there, you are enmeshed—do not scream.
    It is too late to scream. Close your eyes, shut them tight.
    Life is not a waking dream. You have just begun to fight.
    (O, my aching heart, it aches, it hurts,
    It hurts badly, it hurts to the core.
    Kindly spare me your gentle nurture,
    For I dread death’s coming spectre.)

    * * *

    My poems are prompted by the music of Andre Rieu while he played “Edelweiss,” “Memories,” “Somewhere My Love,” “My Way,” and “Time to Say Goodbye” which are tunes I used to lull my wee lass with. Marie Clementine even remembers the Filipino love song sung to her often by my wife, her “yoya”: “Ikaw lamang ang aking iibigin” . . . and she would continue “‘kaw laman . . . mamahalin.” Will she remember the tunes when she grows older? I’ll bet my bottom dollar, she would. I would, in spite of dotage, or even dementia.

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