Shadow in the Garden

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(Thinking of my daughter on her first death anniversary)

It is a recurring thought
As lights
Cast a shadow
On a familiar book
In my garden
On a restless
Early morning.

What if she were alive today
In the era of the unthinkable?

Would she have gone
To the polls
With me and her son
Now a young man of 19?

I used to see her
Gently go down the stairs
Take a shower
Before her writing moments

Laptop on her lap
On the second floor
Of our modest abode.
I remember all these
As I claim my space
In my good old desktop
That has seen better years.
From the ground floor
I could still hear
The gentle thud of the keys
In her bedroom
With her son
Sound asleep
Beside her.
Could she have foreseen
The future
That she would breath her last
In this mountain path
Of Mt. Silay?
I could hear gun fires
From a distance
I could feel her heavy breathing
As she contemplated
The inevitable.
What was in her mind
As bullets tore through
Her arms and chest
Before she breathed her last?
Did she have time
To rewind her past
And mutter a soundless goodbye
As river of blood
From her neck
To her nearly severed arms
Until the last
Of a young life?

A couple of years earlier
I planted a kiss

On her forehead
To wish her safe travel.
We didn’t talk much
I said: Where are you going?
What can I do? I thought:
You prepared for this life
A long time ago
In the mountain trails
Of Isabela;
In the rugged terrains
Of the island
Of her father’s birth
In the flood-prone
Footpath of Tigaon.
It’s been nearly year
Since you left
When we flew
To this turf famous
For its haciendas
And distinguished ilustrados
Living their illustrious past
In well-preserved
Heritage houses.
This ancient city
Was where I heard
A mezzo of consequence
Her voice floating
In this 1940s broadcast
Of the Voice of America.
This time
We didn’t come for the music.
We came
To claim your lifeless body
In the nearby morgue
With strains
Of Gounod’s “Ave Maria”
Floating somewhere.
It is our last goodbye
It is our last embrace
My last kiss on her forehead
As a day later

Her body would perish
In a vault full of flames
In a nearby crematorium.
You stare at this empty
Space in the garden.
No need
To tilt the imaginary scale
For a heavy heart
Weighing down on you.
Time to check the calendar:
August 20, 2021.
It is the day
She breathed her last
A year after
I planted a kiss
On her forehead
On this deserted street
In the heart
Of the city.


Pablo A. Tariman
Pablo A. Tariman
Pablo A. Tariman, 73, is the author of the book of poetry, Love, Life and Loss – Poems During the Pandemic, published by Music News and Features. Two of his poems are included in the anthology The Best Asian Poetry 2021, published by Kitaab Pubishing in Sinagpore. Hi poem, “The Woman on a Motorcycle” appears in the anthology, 100 Pink Poems para kay Leni. Tariman was born in Baras, Catanduanes, and has six grandchildren.


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