Intermediaries for loss


I work on the dining table, coding
responses from focus group discussions
people recounting attacks, ambushes,
deaths so silent we never understand
how to grieve for them properly
or what is just, how to bury their bodies
or honor their memories. Where is
the memory we can honor
when one does not even know of a death?
Where will mothers go to tell
of the importance of her son’s passing?
or the anguish of her loss?
Where does one find consolation
on a dining table, typing word after word
to document and analyze this account.
To understand, we say, so we might learn
from cautionary tales. But no one listens
to these cautionary tales.
We know they are seldom even told.
Our children are born, they eat with bare hands,
elbows on the table, they listen to the news anchor
recount two bombings in a nearby island.
They swallow gesticulated meat, drink from the water
we fought for. They wash their hands, laugh at the splashes.
The day after, we teach them the different ways
the vowels can sound—man, was, shot, bat, lay, wait, waste, last, out.

This is who we are, in the middle.
—brutal, burnt, kneeled, behead. Dead.
Tomorrow, we eat at the dining table with food
I set out. Shared. Lifted with thanks to God
that we are not dead, that there is enough provision
to read tonight again, of another man beheaded
And another patch of land taken. Effects to the community:
Takot at kahirapan. Afraid and poverty.
Nangingikil sa mga tao. Farmers cadger for food and money.
Casualties and victims buried. Our dead have never been buried.

We will hear from them again.
—then, fence, gun, run.

About the author

Floraime O. Pantaleta

Nagsusulat siya sa Chavacano at Ingles at minsan, sa Filipino at Sebuano. Nag-aral ng Literature at Linguistics sa Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology. Kasalukuyan siyang nagpapakadalubhasa sa Ateneo de Zamboanga.

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