Kabel Mishka Ligot
“[Internet users] won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. Social media’s growth into a multibillion-dollar industry, and its lasting mainstream appeal, has depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content. […] This work is increasingly done in the Philippines[, a] former US colony [that] has maintained close cultural ties to the United States[…]”
— Adrian Chen, “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed”, Wired.com
despite the crippling
sluggish internet speeds
the future is here
well it’s coming
in long hot
spurts you breathlessly snuff
out and wipe
off the monitor
you’re crammed in a cubicle
thousand kilometers’ worth
of wires away from both
source and destination
but here you are
both judge and defendant
publishable from banned
jurisdiction over all the evil
mankind can capture
on camera: burns
ruptures bloodied bodies
and objects where objects
should not be
it’s the filipino
morals the boss says
have the same set of sensibilities
as their sensitive eyes rely
on a blueprint of your borrowed
feeling some secondhand
in this golden age
you’re the martyred patron
saint of restraint
from this nine-hour
of split spaces
the desire to be
anywhere else raps
on the cold of your desk
are just entrails
broken teeth the next
beheading the next cup
of coffee the next end of
shift until bravely
the act of bearing
bled and witnessed
noun (Filipino/standardized Tagalog); petrichor
Why are you afraid?
I come silently,
pad a thousand whispered feet
over the city’s floorboards, thick with smog
and even the vendor of newspaper and sweets, waist-deep in traffic
holds his wooden box closer as a father a newborn
child when he senses me stirring.
Umbrellas bloom, faded in the waft.
The myths no longer matter. On a makeshift raft nobody evokes
a lovelorn god’s tears limping
behind his errant wife, banished for her desires
to create as he does. In the buildings you’ve built
there are clerks and poets dreaming of another city
without me: the streets parched and even, succulents lining the avenues.
Clatter and gossip of insect
wings absent in the bluest canopies. You know
what is to come: the shops and banks closing, the certain
migration to rooftops and second floors, rioting in the deeper streets.
Once, your ancestors begged
the same sky for manna, showers of rice bright
as the moon’s fingernails. For years and years you’ve danced
from strait to strait as I’ve sung. Don’t we both leave
sizeable islands of fruit peels in the gutters of your city?
When I rise from the earth I’m no different
from the perfume of cloves, pithiest lime, crust of salt
that crown the unwashed body stitching its way through
a ragged quilt of tarpaulin and corrugated roofs,
narrow streets that web like veins of a wilting leaf. Let me in.
Give me a body
to bathe and lull back into the ocean’s crib.
First Mass / Hesukristo, Exit Interview
13 de Marzo 1521
Mazaua, Leyte del Sur
Yes, I remember it all. Every station of light in the constellation,
each star ripening into its appointed name and place, the Yucca palm refusing
to dissolve into ash, the stable’s sole oiled wick among the lowing oxen,
the twinned sparkle unfolding in the young girl’s eyes: Talitha koum!
How lightning wove itself quick through the rafters, sudden heads
haloed in speech, fevers of phrase that first blossomed in the mouths
of distant rivers. Believer, I’ve remained—skimming the skin of this earth:
sunset loitering in a tide pool, sparks shuttling between synapses, deep red
in palms held up against an open flame. In the mercurial sugars and phloem
pulsing through a blessed oak. In the glint of the axe and its saintly blow.
In the gilded fetish the pious sailor smuggles into the galleon’s hold.
Our boats kiss the blackened shore. In the dusk, my carved-out eyes survey the calm
and unchristened sands. Sun glints through the leaves like sharpened blades. Yet
I’ve strolled through this dewy grove before. What travels quick as light, if not faith?
Kabel Mishka Ligot was born and raised in and around Metro Manila in the Philippines. He holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received the 2019 Jerome Stern Teaching Award. Mishka’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Waxwing, The Margins, Bear Review, Cha, and others. A fellow at Tin House and the Indiana University Writers’ Conference, Mishka currently lives in the Midwest. Find him at kabelmishka.com.