The age of the Internet may indeed have ushered in the Golden Age of Poetry. There are now innumerable access points to great poems and deserving poets, and that means that anyone wanting to read, be instructed in, enjoy, or marvel at poetry can find a place in the conversation.
Here at Women’s Voices for Change, we have decided that our place is the one where women over the age of 40 can be heard. Today, however, we present a 26-year-old poet, Pauline Lacanilao, once a student of our beloved Carol Muske-Dukes.
Pauline’s poem, presented here, speaks for itself. Yet, given her age and the unusual circumstance of her appearing here, we hope you will want to get to know her better. We’d like you to have the chance to read the harrowing stories she wrote to us. You will see them in “Pauline Lacanilao Speaks Poetry to the Horrors in the Philippines,” a companion piece to today’s Poetry Sunday. Our sisterhood makes room for all. We are so gratified that Pauline found her way to us.
for Amberle, whom I’ve never met
A few days ago, your sister
Wrote from Tel Aviv asking me
To pray for a stranger.
When she gave me your name
I pictured each syllable
As a layer of wrapping paper
No idea the surprise in store.
It was her birthday and
Yet she spent it describing
How blooming between
Epidermis and dermis, was a
Flesh-eating bacteria, ripping
You, with painful blisters, apart
From yourself. I tried to pray
For peace, or at least, for the
Piecing back together of you
But instead asked God
To explain: Where is the seam
That splits Self from flesh, joins
Sister and sister, and, when rent
Hurtles prayers into the sky:
Can one survive if the other one
Dies? Amberle, in Dallas
Where you are now, you can’t
Open your eyes, can’t
Speak. But when your mother
Asked, this morning, if you had
Anything you wanted to let
People know, you spelled out
The word Joyful with your hands.
After decades of living in Greece, Saudi Arabia, and New Jersey, Pauline Lacanilao returned to her native Philippines, where she has spent the last few years teaching English and Literature at both the University of the Philippines in Diliman and Ateneo de Manila University. Her poems and essays have been published in Kritika Kultura, The Normal Review, The Daily Record, and Saved Magazine. This fall, she intends to relocate to California, where she will pursue a graduate degree in poetry.