poet's sanctum Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: The ties that bind in Gemino Abad’s poetry

As I have mentioned last week, I will be sharing two more poems from Sir Jimmy’s award winning In Ordinary Time. Trust me when I say that it is difficult for me to choose my favorites among his collection of parables, poetics, and poetry.

Professor Gemino Abad receiving his Premio Feronia Award from Roberto Piperno in 2009 for his book "In Ordinary Time"
Sir Jimmy reciting his poems.
A brief interview on stage.

These two poems, though, touched a core in me, primarily because I know the two boys who inspired him in his writing.

Diego and David Abad - taken with permission from their Facebook pages.

Sir Jimmy’s twin sons, Diego and David have been my former students in the university back in the Philippines. And I have always regarded them with fondness and affection, notwithstanding their quirky moods. David is especially close to me because he used to take Psychology as his major before he moved on to explore other options that would fit his creative energies and insights (both boys very much into the Filipino alternative rock scene – Diego is now into poetry and writing while David is trying his hand at graphic design).

Here are the poems celebrating fatherhood and days of youth and imaginary letters written far away. This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Sara Lewis Holmes in Read Write Believe. Head on over there to check out all the other poetry contributions this week.

Toys from Ordinary Time, 2003
Now our boys have such toys
as my brother and I never dreamed;
Did the same spirit stir our make-believe?
Yet outdoor was where we took its measure.
But how could I wish it were otherwise
 for them, and would it be wise
since other kids inhabit the same quarry
where X-men wage their fantastic wars?
Indeed we knew the hot spill of blood,
with slingshots searched the bushes and trees,
but also knew ourselves pierced
where the world’s songs first were made.
But those video games, those robots,
armaments of glory, sirens of terror,
must root their eyes in our politics
and scavenge for hope in the world’s rubble.
Something’s amiss, or toys perhaps
have changed their meaning.
In the overflood of their kind,
they’ve lost their round of seasons.
It may be the same with the world’s
weather, but in our time,                       
there was one season for kites
when the wind seemed to make the sky rounder;
There was another, for marbles and rubber bands,
the earth firmer, the blaze of sunshine brighter;
and yet another, for tops and wheels,
as streetwise we vied for dusty prizes.
And when the rains came,
and the skies fell with the thunderclap,
how we would run in drenched nakedness
to dare a lightning race to the edge of time.
But how shall I travel to my boys’ heart
and break their dreadnought of heroes,
and find, as when light breaks,
the pieces of their manhood whole?
O, their heroes create them,
but if they could invent their games
and stage their future, might they not
surprise the hero with their fate?

This second one is not so much poetry as much as prose-poetics wrapped as an imaginary letter. So heartfelt and moving.

Diego and David

Imaginary Letter to my Twin Sons, In Ordinary Time, 2003

Dear Davie, Dear Diego
            I am on an island called Oahu.
Here there are many white people, they are called Haules.
There are also Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos.
I have seen the fields of sugar cane
Where the Ilocanos worked when they first came over.
How poor they must have been and lonely;
No one could follow their speech to their own island home.
            There are very few native Hawai’ians;
Their words which are the names of streets and buildings
Outnumber them. “How could happen this be?”
A long time ago, they had a queen, but soldiers came from America
And took away her throne, and then all the land.
Those who fought were killed, and then many more died
Because they did not know the diseases that the soldiers brought –
They were never so sick before on their island.
             But it is a beautiful island
Perhaps because nature’s story is so different from ours.
Trees and mountains and falls and beaches are her speech.
And perhaps, because our own story is dark,
We see only half her beauty, and only dream of good will and peace.
I cannot fathom the human sadness that infects our sense for beauty.
             Let me just tell you now
About the Chinese banyan tree by my window.
Tonight it is my father because his love
Was like a great tree, but without speech.
Every morning on that banyan tree
Many species of birds are in full throat,
So that now I wonder: would my sons, years from now,
Gather from a tree’s silence my own heart’s affection,
And in that moment know that once, while I made their world,
I had deeply wished, when they shall have left that world behind,
I would be the tree to their morning?

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

14 comments on “Poetry Friday: The ties that bind in Gemino Abad’s poetry

  1. I have not seen these photos of my sons before! I am deeply moved and most grateful, Myra. Cheer of spirit and peace of mind be yours for always, teacher of my sons in their youth.


  2. Once again, Myra, your Poetry Friday offering has reduced me to tears. Thank you for these wonderful, personal poems from such a talent, and thanks to him for sharing. It’s heartening to get a glimpse of these two creative young men, who appear to thrive despite growing up with toys which “lost their round of seasons.” I keep re-reading the end of the second – “…I would be the tree to their morning” – beautiful beyond words.


  3. Thank you so much for this beautiful, moving post. How wonderful to see David and Diego and learn a little about them. Both poems are full of heartfelt sentiment and also touched me to the core. But the second packed a double punch since I grew up on O’ahu. The average person may see Hawaii as a paradise, but natives know and are ever reminded of its troubled history. The last stanza with the banyan tree is sublime.


    • Hi Jama. I am glad that it reminded you of home. I have not visited Hawaii yet but I have friends who lived there and they also have fond memories of the glorious sea and the lovely people. I also enjoyed your poem for the week – now I’d have another poet to look out for. 😉


  4. All I can say to the first poem is “Yes!”

    And the last stanza of the second is exquisite.


  5. How beautiful to see sons so loved.


  6. I struggle with the video game worlds that my students inhabit…places that hold no allure for me, because I, like the poet, grew up outdoors, and with much simpler games. His poem really struck a chord with me. I thought of Jama when I read the second poem — interesting to read her comments about it. Thanks for another great post!


    • Thank you for visiting Mary Lee. While I am technically a digital immigrant myself, I do have a sense of familiarity with the videogame world – but on occasion, I thirst for the simpler outdoor games of tag, hide-and-seek, the wind whipping my hair to submission.

      Lost years. 😦 Found again, through poetry.


  7. Pingback: Poetry Friday: Walking Free by Gemino H. Abad |

  8. Pingback: Carnival of Children’s Literature and Round up for October |

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