(Or The Mountain She Climbed)

Islander in the City (by Pablo Tariman)

(The following poem came about last year as I was listening to Strauss’ Last Four Songs. I used the music to recover from the news of MARIA RESSA’s conviction. It never occurred to me she will become the country’s first Nobel Prize laureate.)

Maria Ressa escorted by police after libel conviction last year. (Washington Post)

Everything really works
According to hideous script.

He delivers a shrill voice
On perceived enemies
And everything falls into place.

A senator overstays
In military detention
For years without charges.

Someone dies at breakfast time
In front of his children.
An elderly is taken by helicopter
From her place of work.

Another is accosted
In the dead of night
Never to be found again.

The supposed lawyer of the masses
Goes against a court’s decision
And decides
These faceless people
Helping poor folks
In the countryside
Should be labelled terrorists.

And on to jail
They should go back.
There goes
Your tribune of the people
Going against the interest
Of the masses.
He was supposed to serve.
They are deadset
On closing a major network
With predictable script
Highlighted by bravura performances
From the clown
Beneath the wig.
Poor jeepney drivers
Languish in jail
While notorious foreigners
Go scot-free
After being caught
Running unauthorized hospitals
On top of running drug dens
And houses of prostitution
In time of the pandemic.
Weary grandpa probably naps all day
And wakes up in the dead of night
To deliver message
To weary audiences
Catching up with sleep.
Whimsical grandpa pulls aside
Black humor
As he listens
To his midnight lullabye.
Strange it sounds
More like a dirge
For people
In the valley
Of death and despair.
As for the day’s big story:
She has taken a brave path.
No ifs and buts about it
As she faces formidable opponents
Trying to stifle her voice.
To cower isn’t in her vocabulary.
Her head remains above the ground
Proud and unperturbed
By the sudden change of status
In her life.
Said she:
‘It’s unbelievable
My status has changed
From journalist to criminal
In a day’s time.’
But her visions remain clear
In the face of skilled actors
Wearing assorted masks
In the seat of power.
‘We are at the precipice’
She warned of a country
At the brink of losing
The right to speak its mind.
In the Palace
Clowns play possum
As if everything is all right
With the world.
‘Wicked grandpa has nothing to do with it,’
Came the court jester’s response.
This is the year
Of living dangerously
As you invite endless peril
When you speak your mind.
Millennials of pure guts
Tell us how to proceed:
We have to continue
Calling the bluff
Of a Lion in late summer
Wearing the emperor’s
Sinister clothes
In time of the pandemic.
It is the year of living dangerously
As puppets play assigned roles
And managing to look benevolent
As they quote from the holy book
Before devouring
More victims
Of power play.
We have to hold on
To what we have:
An ounce of courage,
An arsenal of fortitude.
We have to be quick on the draw
For people out to squeeze
The last of the nation’s patience
Boiling in the sea of blood.
It is the year of living dangerously
Virus, ogres
clowns and all.

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