Six Poems

Allan Popa


Sight sets the heights.

Towering past clouds what is pursued by the eye
Remains ungraspable within the eye's reach.

At the edge of the gathering, ruin.

Where to find fullness?

Before everything, the bustling clamor.

A sudden, momentary pause.
(a drop of hush)

As the saying goes, an angel in transit.
(a knot in the tongue's logic)

Afterwards, a horde of angels.

Afterwards, the sense
that something will take place.
(a portent)

Approaching a summit.

The instant before once again
God's hand plummets.

Again, what was stalled at the tip of Adam's tongue
in straining for the fruit.
(a savored refusal)

The one word.

This remaining nameless.


From the leftmost, towards finitude's margins,
is silence expelled.

A heavy door ushering in

Movement is sure-footed in the narrowness of what's allowed.
Towards the chasm's edge, in the pause
before facing the vanishing point.

Although reappearing.
Until the door of what's possible
is sealed completely.

There is a mystery to this line.
There is a hand that intervenes between having been
and being.

Nothing ever returns.

As through a hinge, around which the opening revolves.
Weighted shackles to the heavy footfall.
(remember, nothing ever returns)

The immaculate page stops the mouth.

There are lips imprinting the emptiness.
Straining towards form.

Wanting speech?

From the leftmost. Reappearing.
Weighted footfalls. Remember.

Towards finitude's margins.

While outside, a world
of noise bleeds through.

And beyond the world, stillness.
Also known as edgeless space.

On this line the world whirls.


The insects know.

Theirs the numberless proof.
Therefore true.

They who cloak the noon
Of explanation.

Numberless wing-shadow.

What ripeness is.
In air, inhering.

Scatter a fistful.

Stare at small hands
In gloom.

Dissolving before touching earth.
(gravity's roost)

A kind of hunger.

From arid ground, bodies
Mounting each other.

Scales peeling off tight coils.

Afterwards, a breeding swarm.

Pregnant wave parched from cresting.
(brief lives, murmuring)

Amounting-to, mounting, surmounting.

No surface scarring over.

No remains remaining.

Tongues of Angels

They unfold their wings.
The shadows they create
Fail to darken the earth.

They watch.
Without once batting an eye.
Without once turning their backs.

Without once shielding
Their faces with hands
They cannot lift from their trumpets.

Sometimes they are visited by the memory
Of voice. They long to open their mouths.
But cannot speak.

What is a tongue if not a piece
Of flesh that can never be swallowed.


The nuns on the shore gazing into the river.
There's unease in their eyes.
It's the hour the water begins to swell.

One wades into the water to feel how cold.
The others follow her to cross.
They enter the water, one shadowy wave.

Almost as if their legs measure
How bit by bit the river deepens.
Each foot gropes for the next step that will hold.

Until their garments soak up water.
They pause and look about.
They see each other's faces.

Slowly, they lift their garments.
Their eyes close as the hems pass their knees.
The river flows with its noises.

The cold crawls up their bodies.
They feel their garments gather weight
And adhere to their hidden curves.

In the middle of the river,
They hear the distant vesper bells toll.
Shivering, they sing their hymns.


In the dark of a cave, fear
Visits her. She who remembers
How to be woken out of the sleeping
Body of another.

She will pluck out from herself the loss
As the exact punishment for her sin.

Wrapped in the hide of animals,
Her eldest, borrowing its heat.

The edges of her mind scratch with the most terrible
Futures her child could suffer.
This is how love was first felt.

translated from the Filipino by Jose Perez Beduya, Jose Edmundo Ocampo Reyes, and Marc Gaba

'Babel,' 'Morpo' and 'Imago' (from Morpo, 2001) were translated by Jose Perez Beduya in collaboration with the author. 'Tongues of Angels' (from Kami sa Lahat ng Masama, 2003) was translated by Jose Edmundo Ocampo Reyes. 'Crossing' and 'Eve' (also from Kami sa Lahat ng Masama, 2003) were translated by Marc Gaba.