Len Cristobal

Of gods and ghosts

 In the city, the guns are gods

at night and fat ghosts in daylight,

the sun kneels on a dead-end street

thick with deep red mud drying

before two eyes, open and still,

gaping cold at golden badges.

Above are doves flapping like

windows left unshut in storm.


The news sheds skin, and lips

are leaves rustling back home,

wild dogs slaver at the mouth,

steeled for hunting beside the king,

whose crown is a round nest of blades

and tongues that spit on blindfolds

and scales of men who fish for hours


and the carefree lope along

but we know in life, we are fools,

in the garden of power, mere bugs,

in freedom, corpses with wings.




 In a small village near Xuan Thuy National Park in Vietnam, Pham Thi Kim Phuong starts her day at 4:00 am, preparing food for the family and for the cattle. Before the sun rises, she bikes seven kilometres to the mudflats by the park’s mangroves. –Mangroves for the Future (MFF)

She stands like a queen

on the scrambling fingers

of a giant that grovels at his feet

and sees her tears merely

barren gobs of earth.

Her knotted ligneous parts

and jade thickets hamper

relentless tides, guarding

life in water, on land, and

under her til the flood ebbs

and the river settles.

Inside her is not granite

or the blue lace agate

but salt, the kind that

can nourish and numb.

Do not judge her when

the gold dime in the sky

boils her temper; be water

in her broad, emerald leaves.

Even serpents with scales

that suffocate us from afar

find solace in her breadth

the way turtles, snook,

worms, and sponges do.


Len Cristobal is a writer from the Philippines. Her writings have appeared in local newspapers and magazines and on international websites. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and is working on a collection of essays, short stories, and poems