by Rene Estella Amper
Pete, old friend;
there isn't really much change
in our hometown since you left.
This morning I couldn't find anymore
the grave of Simeona, the cat we buried
at the foot of Miguel's mango tree,
when we were in grade four,
after she was hit by a truck while crossing
the street. The bulldozer has messed it up
while making the feeder road into the mountains
to reach the hearts of the farmers.
The farmers come down every Sunday
to sell their agony and their sweat for
a few pesos, lose in the cockpit or get
drunk on the way home.
A steel bridge named after the congressman's wife
now spans the gray river where Tasyo, the old
goat, had split the skin of our young lizards
to make us a man many years ago.
The long blue hills where we
used to shoot birds with slingshot or spend
the summer afternoons we loved so much doing
nothing in the tall grass have been bought
by the mayor's son. Now there's a barbed wire
fence about them; the birds have gone away.
The mayor owns a big sugar plantation, three
new cars, and a mansion with the gate overhung
with sampaguita. Inside the gate
are guys who carry a rifle and a pistol.
We still go to Konga's store for rice
and sardines and sugar and nails for the coffin.
Still only a handful go to mass on Sundays.
In the church the men talk, sleep; the children play.
The priest is sad.
Last night the storm came and blew away
the cornflowers. The cornfields are full of cries.
Your cousin, Julia, has just become a whore.
She liked good clothes, good food, big money.
That's why she became a whore.
Now our hometown has seven whores.
Pete, old friend,
every time we have good reason to get drunk
and be carried home in a wheelbarrow
we always remember you. Oh, we miss
both Pete and Pedro.
Remember us to your American wife,
you lucky bastard. Islaw, your cock-eyed
uncle, now calls himself Stanley
after he began wearing the clothes you sent
him last Christmas.
P.S. Tasyo, the old goat,
Sends your lizard his warmest congratulations.