Home > Poetry > Dead Reef
Translated from the Filipino by Bernard Capinpin
Published: Mon Oct 25 2021
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 94 Loss Nature Journeys
Dead Reef

Last of their cares is time. They have been witness to all change: when the reptiles sprouted their scales, when the whales left for land, when the apes discovered violence. What is important is the ceaseless expansion of their empire—a ragged city of rosette buildings for polyps. They have encased even the megalodon’s fossil. Slow and aimless, they lay sure claim to the seafloor even as eternity encroaches on them. And though they lack vertebrae, they tirelessly hold up their vow to envelop the world. How apt to say they are an emblem of perseverance.

However, most times, the tails of beasts demolish and hinder their rise; each disturbance of the earth levels and shears the labyrinth of their colony. How many comets and planets’ cheeks have appeared in the sky and brought out destruction? Even they, too, are crushed. Do not wonder why the desert is a grave of their accomplishments.

This is how you want to understand the origin of this island you’ve arrived on. Grains of sand cling to your shoulders. You pick one off and hope to glimpse their nebulous history.

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Enrique S. Villasis is a poet and scriptwriter, born in Milagros, Masbate, Philippines. He has received numerous national literary awards for his poems, including the Palanca and Maningning Miclat. His first book of poems, Agua, was a finalist for a National Book Awards. He is a member of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA). He lives in Quezon City and writes television shows for ABS-CBN. (updated 10/2021)

Bernard Capinpin is a poet and translator. His translations have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Arkansas International, The Washington Square Review, AGNI, and The Massachusetts Review, as well as in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and the anthology ULIRÁT: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines (Gaudy Boy Translates, 2021). He is one of the winners of the 2020 Words Without Borders Poems in Translation Contest. He lives in the Philippines. (updated 10/2021)
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