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Excerpts from Aswang Love

The following poems are part of an in-progress novel-in-poems that tells the story of two aswang lovers. Clara is a manananggal vampire and Santiago is a shapeshifting weredog in 1936 Cutud village. They fall in love and try to live as ordinary humans in plain sight, attempting to give up their predator ways. Clara is attacked by neighbors who figure out she is aswang; Santiago rescues her and they elope, marry, and move to the US, where they have a son, Malcolm. The question: is Malcolm also an aswang? And how do they protect him as he grows?

 

Creation of an Aswang

 

—a curtal sonnet

 

Clara tossed and turned one night, dreaming.

An old woman dying in a large white bed,

her Tita Lucia, her mother’s sister. Clara,

five years old, was alone with her, cleaning

her aunt’s face with a wet cloth, wiping blood

from her lips. Tita Lucia turned toward Clara

 

and kissed her mouth. A black bird, wet, left the aunt’s

mouth and slipped into the girl’s throat. The bed

shook. The aunt died, gurgling. The girl swallowed. Clara

woke: a memory, not a dream. The maiden aunt’s

legacy for Clara.

 

 

Son of Aswang

 

 

From dawn’s mists at the birth of the world, aswang.

To judgment day’s star-starved midnight, yes, aswang.

 

Black bird of the heart rises up into the open throat

and back down again, croaking the song of the aswang.

 

Pitch-dark feathers, tar, bitumen, creosote, obsidian

stone blade chipped into the sharp sword of the aswang.

 

Bakunawa dragon devouring the deep sky’s silver eye,

dread darkness swallowing then spitting up the aswang.

 

Santiago and Clara, saintly and lucent, desperate tenebrae,

have borne Malcolm into the light. But will he be aswang?

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