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In workshop on June 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Dumaguete. Dumas Goethe. The pun is from the southern sage Cesar Aquino. How this bardic wordplay delights my heart! Many years from now we will look back at this time of the year and say these lines from Mary Oliver’s “In Blackwater Woods”:

Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires

This is the furnace into which all metals are forged, the fiery spume of nitre and sulfur which the fallen but autonomous angels used to concoct gunpowder from crude materials. A literal fire baptised me to a new beginning when an antique mansion blazed in front of our house at the strike of New Year. The fire took on several levels of meaning from that day on, and now this is one of its sublated forms: the workshop. One of these days I will post a chronicle of events, but the immensity of the experience prevents any attempt to synthesize. If language is a name for what is already dead in our heart, then the golden and ethereal fire of May does not yet make a relic of this summer. It puts me into a silent ecstasy, like a Siquijor spell.


In rhapsody, workshop on June 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I prefer flat prairies.
I prefer to intuit the planet’s rotation from the six chambers of a gun.
I prefer the silver sweat of cinnabar.
I prefer to see a flask of mercury break.
I prefer cutting an arc in space with a coin tied to my finger.
I prefer to count in parsecs.
I prefer the helix of blown embers to a bonfire’s anatomy.
I prefer the index to the thing itself.
I prefer alkali tracks to asphalt roads.
I prefer mortal heliotropes to magnetic artifacts.
I prefer a halo of gnats to painted angels.
I prefer innominate senses.
I prefer vicarious experiences to visceral ones.
I prefer Euclidean points on a pasteboard heaven.
I prefer shadows cast by clouds on a sun-baked playa.
I prefer the gaze of a dead fish and seeing that it is my own
when my soul assumes the other side of a chess board.
I prefer paradox to ambiguity.
I prefer the skyline.
I prefer to fetch a crane from a dark shaft with just rope and pulley,
and to be mesmerized by the sudden glint of materials from the deep.
I prefer discovering that corners with scant light brighten by mere ocular ability.
I prefer ex cathedra pronouncements on the life of termites
to ethical equivocations on the life of humans.
I prefer big turbines on the beach to the windmills in Cervantes.
I prefer soliciting the name of a thing.
I prefer a two-handled drill that casts chips and smoke out of the cement.
I prefer the shattered edge of a glass bottle to a ready knife.
I prefer imagining that the dead keep secret lives in their marble metropolis.
I prefer looking at rain streaks as puppet strings
to insisting we can avoid being wet.
I prefer my handwriting’s serendipitous hieroglyphics.
I prefer the marginalia of borrowed books.
I prefer the calling of cocks from far away.

(This text is inspired by a word game I played with Arkaye and Petra, my co-fellows in the 48th National Writers Workshop. We brainstormed our favorite words for two hours on the road from Lake Balanan to Dumaguete City last May 6, 2009.)

Variations on a theme by Wislawa Szymborska