Gémino H. Abad

Gémino H. Abad (1939 – ), University Professor emeritus of literature and creative writing, is a poet, fictionist, and literary critic and historian, with various honors and awards. In 2009, he received Italy’s Premio Feronia (“Foreign author category”) for his poetry, later published as a bi-lingual edn., Dove le parole non si spezzano (Roma: Edizioni Ensemble, 2015). Where No Words Break: New Poems and Past (2014) is his tenth poetry collection, and Past Mountain Dreaming (2010), his ninth of critical essays; he has two collections of short stories, Orion’s Belt (1996) and A Makeshift Sun (2001). He is known also for his three-volume anthology of Filipino poetry in English from 1905 to the 1990s – Man of Earth (1989), A Native Clearing (1993), and A Habit of Shores (1999); and a six-volume anthology of Filipino short stories in English from 1956 to 2008 – Upon Our Own Ground (2008), Underground Spirit (2010), and Hoard of Thunder (2012). He obtained his Ph.D. in English at the University of Chicago in 1970, and continues to teach at U.P. where he has served as Secretary of the University, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, and Director of the U.P. Creative Writing Center (now an Institute).

I Teach My Child

 

I

I teach my child

To survive.

I begin with our words,

The simple words first

And last.

They are hardest to learn.

Words like home,

Or friend, or to forgive.

These words are relations.

They are difficult to bear;

Their fruits are unseen.

Or words that promise

Or dream.

Words like honor, or certainty,

Or cheer.

Rarest of sound,

Their roots run deep;

These are words that aspire,

They cast no shade.

These are not words

To speak.

These are the words

Of which we consist,

[cont.: NO stanza]

Indefinite,

Without other ground.

 

II

My child

Is without syllables

To utter him,

Captive yet to his origin

In silence.

By every word

To rule his space,

He is released;

He is shaped by his speech.

Every act, too,

Is first without words.

There’s no rehearsal

To adjust your deed

From direction of its words.

The words are given,

But there’s no script;

Their play is hidden,

We are their stage.

These are the words

That offer to our care

Both sky and earth,

 

[cont.: NO stanza]

The same words

That may elude our acts.

If we speak them

But cannot meet their sound,

They strand us still

In our void,

Blank like the child

With the uphill silence

Of his words’ climb.

And so,

I teach my child

To survive.

I begin with our words,

The simple words first

That last.

 

 

 

THAT SPACE OF WRITING

 

 

And when I write, I want the largest space,

Of such breadth, of such length as this world

Never had of forests nor virgin paper,

Where the words never were, their script accursed,

but only now

Descending to cry, Freedom!

 

Then my hands should never feel there were walls

That grow their ominous lichen between my fingers,

Nor my elbows graze the wild beards of rocks

That cathedral my tribe wailing for their god,

but only now

Descending without speech!

 

The words that never were create anew my race,

Their mornings stand clear where ancient skies cascade

Down the singing gorges of the wind. My hands

Draw again the map that alien voyages had wrecked,

O long ago

Descending with Cross and Krag!

 

 

[continue: NEW stanza]

 

 

 

My elbows swing where rooms void their space,

And I laugh to see the weird syllables of speech

Open their abyss, and stride across the heartland

Of my people’s silences where their eyes pour

like sunlight

Descending to claim the earth!

 

O when I write again, the words of any tongue

Shall find no tillage in our blood, nor my hands

Scruple to choke their weed, for first must they bleed

Their scripture in our solitude and yield to our

scythe’s will

Descending to carve our heart.

 

 

 

 

 

WHERE NO WORDS BREAK

 

(After People Power Revolution, 22-24 February 1986)

 

 

 

                        Where no words break

I thirst no longer for truth,

am very still, at peace.

Time was

the truth was future perfect,

but I no longer seek,

all my pieces I have collected

 

and let no words break

 

Where no words break

my thirst is quenched

by every spring,

the spring is everywhere.

Time was

I strove for truth,

the passion grew,

but words could not appease.

Truth had no bounds

 

and let no words break

 

[continue: NEW stanza]

 

The President whose State was a Lie,

the soldier who did not fire,

people shouting, words dying …

Or fruit of achiote,

snails after, things swarming …

Once these were truth’s sundries,

its daily exhibits,

but did not make a book

 

where no words break

 

I thirst no longer for truth,

Am, without words composed.

Our ticks have lost their itch,

the tocks of doom have grown serene,

I no longer even roam

 

where no words break

 

 

 

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