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No Comfort in Shade: Three Poems by Chris Santiago

To constellate; archipelago. // Portmanteau & neologize. // To fix a golden / foil across the mouth— // a burial mask / to keep the evil out. // To raise walled cities / stone & green with rain.

By Chris Santiago

Still Life with Transduction

The last time we’d met—a bad quarrelsome
Thanksgiving made worse by partners we

were both about to leave—she’d told me
about the pregnancy, including the Southeast Asian

country from where its soul she believed
had come. It was Oakland, a world away

from the prairie suburb we’d both fled
for love & education, where I’d drawn

mostly from postcards & she’d explained
it was best to draw from life. I said nothing

of comfort—not because I was heartless
but because I was stunned—& she retired

to her prized possession, the claw-foot tub
she’d restored on the second floor

& my last thought before waking in the dark
to drive south over swells & stretches

Midwestern in their shorelessness
was to wonder what it was like to see

with sound: limbs
folded, unfolding, curled in pulse

& process. I took a class to pass the time
in a jobless friendless city: it was important to learn

to feel what I saw, to remember what I touched
touched me. It took years to learn

that with luck you can see the face
& with luck’s opposite even stillness.

Soon a postcard came (a favorite Balthus
& a subtext of reconciliation) & in a drizzle

off Fairfax she introduced her husband
& I my wife & infant son. Out of ignorance,

not tact, they made no mention of the one
we hadn’t been able to have. She

was glowing, almost three months,
& would soon get her first chance to see.

Tell me everything she said, meaning tell me
not to be afraid.




[Island in the Infinitive]

To survey. To surveil.

To yoke stars, islands,

tribes—slow & far-flung dooms

corralled into ensemble.

To constellate; archipelago.

Portmanteau & neologize.

To fix a golden

foil across the mouth—

a burial mask

to keep the evil out.

To raise walled cities

stone & green with rain.

To reconcentrate (to hamlet).

Keep the evil in.

Upang maging o hindi maging.

To infight. Backstab.

Resort to guerrilla warfare.

To lay it all on questionable wagers.

Submit too readily to fate.

To find no comfort in shade

the Pasig sluggish under the Jones Bridge.

Boys jump down into the weedy slush

brown-limbed, laughing.

To count them, body by body.

Rushing in the ears

like water.




ultra / sound

ki-bo1the heart strong & fast

 

ki-bo ki-bo2pressed by echo
into light

 

ki-bo ki-bo ki-bo3he stirs when you’re
still

bow-grips
for the moth-

 

ki-bo ki-bo  ki-bo ki-bour music
hope

is a homophone
for blood-sound

busong
Ilongo for

pregnant is pregnant
with song


1 Ilongo (noun): the sound the heart makes
2 Tagalog (verb): to move
3 Japanese (noun): hope