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Immaculate Bone

Published on September 2018 | Categories: Documents | Downloads: 10 | Comments: 0



Immaculate Bone  A Portrait of Pandacan by Deirdre Camba


 Techniques of Torture by Water

Chain the wrists and the ankles — the the chest to the reclined back of a chair. Secure the position of the head: tip of nose pointing straight to sky. Gag the mouth if desired, but leave the eyes uncovered.  Align the face to the faucet suspended above it.  Turn the knob. A drop should strike the brow.


Bunso How Marty learned to fall in line  was towards bowls of soup, towards two soldiers, clutching ladles, looming and brilliant in a street corner. Every Sunday, after church: familiar cue. She is seventh in line, holding  Belen’s cup. She is  Twelfth, holding holding Teban’s and twenty-first for Quala  while a brother, perhaps  Ticio, holds a bucket  where the soldiers cannot see, waiting for Marty  and her feast in deposits She is fifty-second in line, hands cupped, almost prayer, while four sisters hide in veils in the darkest room of their house. She is first in line for mother or father, tiny feet in beat

of a march, round face shameless in demanding  before men to ladle 3

soup into these bowls, to ladle the soup into these bowls.


 The first few drops of water should feel like the announcement of rain. This gentle prodding, a suggestion to run towards shelter.


 The House in Pandacan crisp linen mahjong table chandelier trapdoorg  lass showcase silver spoons crystal goblet loaded rifle capiz window  rosarios four-post bed iron locks Quala’s ternos  velvet slippers  violin canned pork  Sto. Nino golden dress  vigil candles still birth spiral staircase emerald earing  China vase blackened curtains yes Marty  yes Belen yes Teban yes Ticio yes and mother and then father this prayer: ten others 


 They are bound, water slowly dripping onto their faces, for any period between minutes and moons.  Where sleep is forbidden, phrenology means: on the forehead, there is no flesh. Only tautness of  skin, the impression of muscle. Immaculate bone.


Santa Maria  And Belen, eighteen and beautiful to tears, she is dipping  two fingers into a cup of ash and drizzle is anointing the holy body: taut cheeks, closed eyelids, rose ankles, full lips. Belen, eighteen and beautiful, she is clutching onto the third mystery of the rosary, is staining every bead in the wake of mouthing  the Hail Mary in Spanish  full of grace, the lord  lord  is with thee, full  of grace, now and at the hour  of our death , and outside the soldiers are marching  amen and the soldiers are pounding the streets in the name of the father  the son, the holy ghost , Belen, eighteen and beautiful, she was beautiful, amen.


Drops will pound the brow like a monsoon in miniature, will strike between widening eyes, and strike again with unfailing devotion. Here, above the bridge of the nose, here, between the temples, again. And they, delirious from wakefulness, will  wail and shiver and kick their bound feet like the tail of a fish washed up on sand. Behind the cloth that gags, they will open their mouths in the black  shape of fear, imagining in the absence of dream, a hollow branding their foreheads.


 Taguan Tagu-taguan, maliwanag ang buwan  Four children are prancing   Masarap maglaro sa sa dilim-diliman  under the moonlight in Pandacan bilang ko’ng tatlo, Pag- bilang  Ticio runs to hide behind a concrete slab nakatago na kayo Mameng crawls into an empty sack  Isa!  Marty hovers over Manong Neo, sprawled, Dalawa!  struggles to lie on the ground, Tatlo!  her tiny self concealed under the weight of this cold body.


 These hollows, these th ese holes, between brows, above nose: striking with unfailing devotion, these bowls of immaculate bone, to pour the soup into these bones.


 Teban In the rare family dinner  when Teban retreats into his corners resonating the aftermath of jokes in the quiet shaking  of his shoulders, what he means to tell me is exactly   what he means to remember: he was not forbidden from laughter during the war though only ever beneath trapdoors could he manage the loosening  of a throat, the slowed rhythm of a heart. Teban, look  your sister sister paints her face  with this muddy paste of water  and charcoal. La Maria Negra  Isn’t she beautiful?  When he knew that the answer would burden this dark with a flicker to rival the sun. He replies this light must not be uttered. Pulse is conditioned to quicken easy by easy by the drumming of boots on pavement. Teban, listen closely to this thudding. The harmony in your veins  will remind you of your youngest sister

luminous, somewhere. Outside this house, she marches to the beat of a cue hands cupped in her litany  12

for soup. And Teban draws his shoulders towards his heart his eyes widening in the dark. Sitting in this dinner, our glasses full, roast pork on the table, no such burdens need to weigh. But Teban pursues his corners shoulders shivering in the lightness as if to coax a mystery. Lips pursed, he is asking me this light cannot be uttered;  come and get these memories? 


 This dark shape, looming and brilliant and stretched taut beneath the skin, it will cave deeper than the cupped palm of a silver spoon and threaten the first gesture of a prayer. Look, look: look: the tip of this finger, in the name of the father.


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