March 22, 2021 · Issue 2: Space(s)

Quezon City, October 1, 1975

Everyone is watching two men bleed in the square.


They’re leaning on each other, heads on the other’s shoulders. The referee
pushes them apart and the mouthpieces fly into the air. Granddad, that lucky son
of a gun, gets to watch them for free. The splinters in his calloused hands rise
and fall with the huddled masses.

They name a shopping mall after all of this, the first of its kind, and he gets to
install its lights. Climb a rickety ladder to fix them when they break. When the
bosses aren’t looking, he steals a few wooden planks—runs home
and builds 4 shaky walls and a roof without a ceiling.


The building’s got no A/C and the Americans suffer
in the tropical humidity wondering
if this foreign air will ever cool itself down.

The son, ready to leave it all behind, pulls over
on the highway, quickly losing his breath.
His heart seeps through his brick-sized cell-phone.

Dad’s dead.


“No one will ever forget what you did here today”
says Eddie Futch—Ali is just about ready to quit. His eyes
are swollen shut and he’s bleeding rivers, sweating
buckets—flying planes into Canadian air with a wife and daughter
and 8-year-old son—there are no words for a performance
like that.


I might just crash this car. Practicing with Dad
in the empty parking lot behind the mall.

“Christ, tingnan kung Saan ka pupunta!”

Our hearts beat so hard
they turn to pulp someday.

It’s his day off and I, still living in his house, help him
build a deck in the backyard for the summer.

There is sawdust in my lungs. There are splinters in our veins.
There is infinite space between us: 500 ocean miles,
14 useless rounds, 6 muddied feet, 1 or 2 endless
millimetres of air between my head and your shoulders. Dad repeats
all these stories, getting many details wrong—I am struck
by the sudden complexity of his timbre. How warm
and wobbly it dances on the canvas.

He hands it to me and I am speechless
staring through the wooden frame

watching two men bleed in the square.