Scarlet

(as published on The Philippines Graphic magazine)

akin to the shade that has incarnadined the bruises
of a lone oceanid choking at the rocks of Manila Bay—
she of soiled fingers combing through seaweed-tresses
matted with oil, excrement, with a balm of something
foreign, like a smear of leftover hope

or was it vermillion, the splash that punctuated
a cough of a barrel in an alley lit only
by the unblind eye of a gas lamp? Bespattered
little Totoy’s frail pallor until he is no longer
as white as the stones he did not know he carried

tantamount even to the carmine dark that dripped
from our fountain pens one November in the South,
ebbing, flooding headlines and *58 shallow
graves (32 of whom are of our brothers), drenching
the faded mourning clothes we still wear a decade later

a hue to drown out lazuli Rosco in our flag
to be one solid blood, crib of great men in the Song—
its notes we can still exhale audibly with our fallible
mouths; for as long as we are breathing
there are grieving and living for the aggrieved to be done