Manuel Ortega Abis

At home

At home, the ground is written by a tree
Which stands before our family
Garden of words
And claims the sound of old poetry.
Nothing stands between me and this tree
Except the roots of a dying language and
A diaspora in bloom.
As everything else stands under the light
Of a onesome being and thingsome doing,
Truth becomes a liquid experience
Requiring the stay of every attendance
And the attention of every travel;
Else piety comes
Then leaves.

Breath of senses

What his hands
Shape within / shall set his every thing
Together / for it shall be the measure
Of him / to be as great as his hold –
And no greater.
His knowledge is complete
When completely divided / for he is
Extension and intension of an organ-
Ization / and as his orb enters
Traffic he becomes
Government personified
Who works his time and spaces / in
The same breath of all his senses.
One can not share what one can not
Shape / and one can not begin to find
Power / without shifting back to
Neutral gear.


Makes you appreciate beauty more.
Beauty may be hard and, at times, selfish. But it is never cold.
It is as warm as the blind beggar’s song
Greeting you at the train terminal on your way back home
From the office. It is the quiet excitement
You’re longing to keep on hold after you and your boss
Have closed the business deal, finally. Because
Of words you’ve used to sell the contract. Words
Repeated time and again before you sleep,
Or in the morning while you sip your coffee.
Words that tell, but never show.
Words whispered to your ear.
Words like children and family.
(Oh, how the client loved your pitch!)
Beauty may be alone now, but it is never lonely. It
Will always be waiting upon your return, ready
To listen to and to learn
Every detail of the story
You’ve managed to go by
On your own today.
Work makes you appreciate beauty more,
As eyes and lips embrace each other in
At the door.



Never the length, but the strength
Which will bind us to its argument;
Maybe the twist around the wrist
Which will remind us of its tendencies
To be more of use
When inconspicuous.
Or to be well-ensconced
In the soundness of a proposition.
Or to be an unmapped correspondence
Between the text and its sense.
Or to be the tractable end of a thread.
Never the precise logic, but the language
Which will keep us keep the necklaces,
The watches and the shoe laces,
The leather belts and bracelets,
The seashell-beaded anklets,
The hair bands and cellphone accessory cords,
The temporary files, cookies and saved passwords.
May eventually be the only thing remaining
Between the human idiom
And its machine translation.

Grass people and home tombs

As one makes for the world of the living a place for the dead,
So one makes for the world of the dead a place for the living.

In the province of our mind, we do
Mind what province each came from.
We can only presume their vocabulary begins
With their choice of tree and ends
With the transfer of ownership of a misplanned
Park bench marble.
All memory is inevitably memorial.
At the urban phenomenon: we can only be whole
When we begin to embrace everything that isn’t even
Supposed to be a part of us anymore. O,
But for the grass people. There is a difference
Between lying about the city scape and lying about
The city people. This is called privacy, and its most
Intransitive verbs: have and keep. This will work
Either six feet under or over the ground. Of course,
This came about after the invention of modern
Permanence called the public cemetery.
And – after all this –
How do the grass people weep?
In their home tombs as they sleep.

Manuel Ortega Abis is from the Philippines, 49 years old, and single. A 1992 MMFellow for Poetry in English of the University of the Philippines National Writers’ Workshop (UPNWW) and a member of the Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika at Anyo (LIRA). He writes poetry and fiction in English and his native language Filipino. He is now separated from the service of a local government where he worked for more than 20 years and has returned to his first love – creative writing. He believes that, in his writing, “imagination is sovereign.”