Jose Luis Pablo
Cutting the Tree
After the storm, my father and I investigate the scraping that had haunted the house while the typhoon lashed Manila for days. The culprit was the rambutan tree that had dared extend its trunk past its prison plot. Shouting an apology to the duwendes out in the blank air, we shake it first and the leaves fall as the rain's afterthought. The thick body bends toward us for a few inches, then recoils to sound a gong against the galvanized sheets. My father asks me to fetch the saw and rope.
My father is pleased because my hands are no longer idle, after making the week my sabbath. I am a version of a carpenter; I transform the wood. Soon this house will be like the fruit-bearing tree, and the work will reside in the minds of their creators.
The Bible says the body is a temple, there is shelter for the spirit. / The body, it worships in labor. / The house, the body of a home. / O temple, our tenuous tenement, make yourself known. Can you stand as the Earth spins to a new age?
We build around what we want to remember. I am dodging the hail of fruit resembling sea creatures.
Essence of the tree flying as sawdust,
Sudden and gift-like
Our own version of first snow
Some stories are a circle,
like this island.
We emerged from the universe
to forge our own in steam of want,
a rumbling cataclysm of will.
Aloft on an alien current or cosmic soup,
we reached volcanic oceans and ridges,
then wiped off the dew-turned-rheum
to witness each other.
Remember the behemoth cartilage,
the evolution of our
Eventually the centuries will take notice.
Now sunlight is tricked when it falls here —
a basin that tips the blessing
from brim to brim.
When night comes,
we’ll seek the patches
of missing suns and find
instead our twin shadows
overtaking. The end is another
ridge on this ring of fire.
We are not afraid to join the cliffs
steeped with coral. What will be left
will be ossified to fossil and flake.
See how we can still rejoice
when moments are rendered amber.
Our creation evidences that memory
can withstand burning
and this story is a circle,
like this island.
But for now, may we be content on its curve.
Jose Luis Pablo is a genderfluid poet and a communications manager for a non-profit. Their work has been published in Likhaan: The Journal of Contemporary Philippine Literature, Cordite Poetry Review in Australia, My Gay Eye in Germany, Busilak: New LGBTQ+ poetry from the Philippines (University of the Philippines Press), The Pinch in the USA, and elsewhere, as detailed in joseluisbpablo.wordpress.com. Nico was awarded a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2018, and was a finalist for the 2020 Peseroff Poetry Prize. They are based in Rizal, Philippines.