The Bronze Dove

1. Benigno Aquino Jr. International Airport
The adobe-brown terminal looms
like a sleeping carabao caked with mud—
you come up with fifty words to describe
the different shades of green you saw
rushing up from the ground,
you scratch your neck, feel the grime and sweat
from San Francisco or L.A. on your nape,
you look out your window seat
search for a plaque or a stain of blood—
this is the tarmac where he was shot.

(For a better view, go to Ayala Avenue in Makati.
In front of the Bank of the Philippine Islands
and the Insular Life Building is the statue
with the stairs and the dove on his shoulder.
While you're there, look
for the statues of Lapu Lapu and Tandang Sora
among the Ipil-ipil trees on Makati Avenue.)

You pass through a fluorescent-white curtain
of warm air as you descend
into the unloading tube—
a smile from an airline attendant,
the long walk to the Immigration booth,

Balikbayan sir? Welcome home.

a stamp for six months on your U.S. passport,
another ten dollar bill between its pages
for the Customs people up ahead,

Balikbayan? Do you have anything to declare,
pasalubong, expensive gifts
for the relatives? Thank you sir!

a porter in a red shirt takes your luggage
to the street level, asks for five dollars,
the faces of a hundred people pressed
behind a bamboo fence stare
as you board a Golden or Metro taxi cab.

You inhale the humid air, sweat is now
running down your face.

2. E. de los Santos Avenue
The Jeepnies are engorged with eight
or ten passengers, each jeepney
speeding and stopping with their fiesta
of sounds, of colors, the bodies inside
breathing carbon monoxide.

You take the overpass into Makati—
to the right is the long tan wall topped
with barbed-wire hiding the luxury homes
of Dasmarinas Village, to the left
is San Lorenzo Village where you'll find
the San Lorenzo Pre-school.
Go to the house in Zulueta Circle,
this is where the poet
of Like The Molave once lived.
His widow's name is Cora.

On the corner of Edsa and Buendia,
among the street vendors selling
copies of Woman's Day, Manila Bulletin,
or Marlboro and Winston cigarettes,
you might see a girl without a left arm tapping
on windows of stopped cars pointing
to her mouth, asking for money.
Every other year, before the monsoon rains,
it's the same arm that's cut off
just above the elbow, a different
young face running up to cars
in the same intersection.

3. Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo
You pass Camp Crame where Ninoy Aquino,
Jose Maria Sison, the poet Mila D. Aguilar,
and countless others were "detained"
under Marcos. The positive wire
attached to the penis, the negative
to the scrotum. This is also the place
where more than a million people
said "no" to the Dictator. You may still
hear stories about the tear gas,
the armored personnel vehicles,
the ordinary people who would not
move out of the way. They say
that for three days the electricity
to the whole city was turned off
but the people still fought for freedom,
sang songs to each other around bonfires,
made love by candle light.
 

Nick Carbo, "The Bronze Dove" from Secret Asian Man. Copyright © 1995 by Nick Carbo.  Reprinted by permission of Nick Carbo.
Source: Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation (University of Illinois Press, 2004)