Wednesday, March 17, 2010
FIGHTING KITE by Vince Gotera
About Fighting Kite . . .
Fighting Kite narrates, in verse, the life of Martin Avila Gotera — son, trickster, soldier, schizophrenic, visionary, lawyer, workingman, father — a life that glimmers like a node, a shimmery knot, a glowing nexus, of the shared histories of the Philippines and the United States. Fighting Kite also unveils how parents' lives shape, shade, and sharpen their children's days and nights: a son remembering a father, brilliant and troubled, tormented and wise.
Poems from Fighting Kite . . .
Papa said, "You know I would have to kill you,"
to Mama, who sat quietly, head bowed.
I was just a kid — five or six — and cried
deep gut-wrenching sobs. The moon, like a new
coin in the window, sliced in half by blue
knives of cloud. "You're too young to understand,
Vin," he smiled. "It would be my duty as a man."
A tear on her cheek, Mama whispered, "That's true."
To this day, I don't know if there was another man
or if they were only talking possibility,
in case, for example, Mama felt her face
begin to flush downstairs with a repairman.
Her only safety net then — Papa's motto,
A place for everything, everything in its place.
1931, although a drought year, still brings
the feast of San Martin, turning Pasig's
main street into a river: colors strung
from windows, a marching band in homespun.
The market blooms religious relics, red and green
papier-mache toys, in the church plaza. Little boys
in yellow kerchiefs chase a greased pig in and out
among buyers, competing for a purse of centavos.
At sunset, the streets scintillate with candles,
wisps of flame escorting the dark-skinned Virgin
in gold and vermilion on hardy shoulders.
Banks of townspeople singing hymns are led
by Simeon, the cantor. The finale
at full dark, the zarzuela stage show: all day
grandmothers hinting about a "special appearance"
tonight, perhaps a famous singer from Manila.
But before all that, in the musky heat of early
afternoon, my father is tying a sack of ashes
behind his back, slung from his waist
as he shinnies up a pole slick with pork fat.
At the top, 25 feet above the hooting crowd,
a pouch of pesos. The younger boys unable to reach,
the older ones get a turn. "You're 10, right?"
the parish priest asks my father. "You go first."
Sweat stings his eyes. My father climbs 6 feet,
starts to slip. The crowd chants, "Martin! Martin!"
Slow like a cat, he stretches right hand then
left into the sack. Fingers dipping in ash.
Almost there, almost there. This is his life.
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