February 19, 2006
Poems of Angela Manalang Gloria
Through life, I have never been a poem-lover so to speak. The only ones I've appreciated are those by authors who wrote classical and lyrical poems- the ones that are strict with the meters, the rhymes and so forth. I enjoy my poems structured, because it represent order and talent. It's like comparing Picasso and Rembrandt on the merits of their technical acumen to which I am biased towards the latter. My only idols in this genre are: Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, and Jose Rizal. Now, I shall add to the list the illustrious Angela Manalang Gloria (1915 - 1996).
Her poems are almost song-like but full of wit and wisdom. Since she was a feminist during the colonial years, her works are centered mostly from a woman's point of view. Even that is such the case, her talent resonates in everyone who reads them. Her biography can be read here in PinoyLit.
I have collected her hard-to-come-by poems floating in the net because hers are quite rare to find. She has only published one book called Poems (1940) and it's out of stock. So, sit back and enjoy some of her better known ouerves.
Old Maid Walking on a City Street* (1950)
She had a way of walking through concupiscence
And past the graces her fingers never twirled:
Because her mind refused the heavy burden,
Her broad feet shovelled up the world.
The door is closed, the curtains drawn within
One room, a brilliant question mark of light...
Outside her gate an empty limousine
Waits in the brimming emptiness of night.
Revolt From Hymen** (1940)
O to be free at last, to sleep at last
As infants sleep within the womb of rest!
To stir and stirring find no blackness vast
With passion weighted down upon the breast,
To turn the face this way and that and feel
No kisses festering on it like sores,
To be alone at last, broken the seal
That marks the flesh no better than a whore's!
Any Woman Speaks*** (1940)
Half of the world's true glamour
Is held--you know by whom?
Not by the gilt Four Hundred
Parading in perfume,
Nor by the silvered meteors
That light the celluloid sky--
But by these eyes that called you,
Blind fool who passed me by!
Ermita in the Rain*** (1940)
It is not the rain that wanly
Sobs its tale across the bay,
Not the sobs of lone acacias
Trembling darkly in the gray,
Not the groans of harried breakers
Flinging tatters on the shore,
But the phantom of your voice that
Stays me dreaming at my door.
It was a sacrilege, the neighbors cried,
The way she shattered every mullioned pane
To let a firebrand in. They tried in vain
To understand how one so carved from pride
And glassed in dream could have so flung aside
Her graven days, or why she dared profane
The bread and wine of life for some insane
Moment with him. The scandal never died.
But no one guessed that loveliness would claim
Her soul's cathedral burned by his desires
Or that he left her aureoled in flame…
And seeing nothing but her blackened spires,
The town condemned this girl who loved too well
and found her heaven in the depths of hell.
I never meant the words I said,
So trouble not your honest head
And never mean the words I write,
But come and kiss me now goodnight.
The words I said break with the thunder
Of billows surging into spray:
Unfathomed depths withhold the wonder
Of all the words I never say.
Cementerio del Norte****
To the memory of Consuelo
And so, it all must come to this—a dying afternoon,
Thin cerements of rain around the forlorn ghost of weeping,
White tombs so desolately splendid, a priestly monotone
Drifting in sacramental grace, and then—the final sleeping.
What else is there to say? (The last word has been said too soon
For you and all the golden hopes once minted for your keeping)
White tombs so desolately splendid, bone unto alien bone,
What else is there to say, now that the sleepless dead are sleeping?
* Missives from the Teacher
** Babaylan Speaks
*** Best Philippine Short Stories Index