Thirteen Dreams and One Duterte

illustration: francis estrada



A wall diademed with broken glass
    can tear the skin
of anyone who dares to scale the wall

Hot box for a house, a tinderbox of electric fans
    I took to walking in my sleep to
streets with no hills which snaked for miles


Open sewage like a babbling brook of tar


Duterte is a verb as in “to be Duterted” or
to be hunted as in a dream


Outside our compound
   We roamed the streets like dogs
Dogs were aliens among aliens

They came of age and began
   distrusting us
Our lives lived below sea-level


Ubiquitous as smoke, we squinted our eyes
   squeezing long hits from our smokes
At dusk our hair was drenched in it

   Lips glistening with grease
Strays didn’t stand much of a chance with us


The silent g in poignant
   confounds our guild
Failure bestowed upon us like a gift
   The law knocking at our domicile –

without probable cause
   The law would never surrender evidence
when asked directly


The street is so congested
   it’s an extrajudicial killing
Manila is so deafening it’s practically soundproof


The nature of dreams is to affirm our forced
   disappearance                   Duterte’s streets
before the typhoon                               I am
   a typhoon trans-nationalizing

across the archipelago, a balikbayan
   box in a loaded warehouse              They call me loadie


I am an Overseas Foreign Worker, someone’s kuya
   your lola, your auntie Librada, your Liberty
of Strangers, your domestic, a helper


Above the pile of stink and vermin, a bell tower
   where a hammer strikes
Bong Bong, the cruel strain of our cultural legacy


I am 10:30 in the morning, a kali stick fighter
   demonstrating a knife attack       I am a demo
mon confrère in a kicking conference


I hear whispers rustling through the pampas
   a tone-deaf priest
trying to keep up with the choir


My two balikbayan boxes opened without a sound
   no different from two black stones that reach far


I’ve learned to bark in another language
   at the dark I’m meant to watch

Born in the Philippines and currently residing in Brooklyn, Francis Estrada ( is a visual artist, museum educator, and freelance educator of Filipino art and culture. Francis has a fine arts degree in painting and drawing from San Jose State University. Francis’s artwork focuses on culture, history, and perception.

Eugene Gloria’s recent works have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, and the Best American Poetry 2014. His third collection, My Favorite Warlord (Penguin, 2012), received the 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for poetry. He teaches creative writing and English at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.