Poem by Melissa Roxas

by Melissa Roxas


The composition of earth changes every time something is mixed into it. The rains come and it becomes mud when mixed with water. Seeds, when planted, flower into something that feeds you. The same is true of smell and sounds. Isn’t it often said that when you talk to plants they grow to know your voice? Move with your breath?

But what of sweat that pours into the ground? The markings made from combat boots that trampled the earth? The wrappers of Payless on the ground? The many cigarette butts that came from the Devil’s mouth? What of the blood? From the back of Julito*? From the chest of Ronel**? What happens to the animal sound from the bodies? The slow movements of men with their hands tied to the back, the missing tongues, the knife, the men in uniform whose laugh made the earth remember? There was the odor of musk and wind and rotten calabasa. What will grow from that much soil? The earth grew familiar with Julito’s hands when he planted maiz and vegetables in the farm, Ronel’s feet from hours of planting squash. The earth has known their names forever, Oh, but never like this.


By earth
by earth
bit by bit
by give
by mouth
by trail
by foot
by print
by squash
by earth
by leaf
by worm
lift by hair
by arm
by might
see the sack
grey and ash
by and by
hack by hack
by bit
by bone
by red by rib
by earth
by lie
they lie
o my
by and by
by earth they lie


You try to rearrange the bones
but the foot doesn’t fit the leg
the hip too big for the torso
the neck too dark for the head
one eye is gone
the other is the wrong color
no arm
only two left fists.
Mark the parts
that still don’t have
its pieces,
try to fit the ones
that are there
feel the finger,
let it point,
lift them all from the fires.


I looked for you
in hospitals, infirmaries,
morgues of every city,
everywhere —
even in the fresh patches of unmarked earth
that promised your body.

But it was not you I found
but many more unnamed children.
There was a woman
whose body was half burned,
her face drawn in soft charcoal,
an unmaking of art
an erasure of beauty, of death
in its most primitive form.
There was a man who went
insane from torture, found
on the steps of a small hospital
in Pasig. They were all broken parts
that could’ve been yours.
Other deaths
and their living mothers,
children, and lovers
walking the streets
searching the wind
hoping it will carry them messages.


When you tell the mountains to be moved, it is not at your call that they obey. But journey and take even a spoonful of earth from its mountaintop and place it on flat ground and you would have changed the world a little bit already.


* Julito Quirante and Ronel Raguing were members of NAMASCA (Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Sta. Catalina), a legal peasant’s organization affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) movement, that advocates for the rights of landless peasants, small farmers and farm workers for genuine land reform in Negros Oriental, Philippines. After missing for more than a month, the search for them led by Karapatan Central Visayas ended with the exhumation of their bodies on March 9, 2009. Their bodies were in an advanced stage of decomposition. Juanito’s body had broken ribs and 10 stab wounds in the back. Ronel’s body had broken ribs, 4 stab wounds in the stomach and 2 in the upper chest. Suspected elements of the Philippine military responsible for their abduction and killing still remain at large.

** See above note.