Joel Vega

after Mary Sarton

It is in March that the wild pear tree gathers its winter
robes, burying them
in the slumbering garden. It is in the green pond,
abandoned by the sleek-boned carp, that the heron
interrogates its own reflection, asking for the certainty
that the evening cannot offer.
Slumber takes its own prisoners, and places them
behind the walls more intimate than dreams.
Solitude feeds its own hunger, as when the tree,
splitting at the core, reveals the gnorl of cotyledon—
shield of star, burst of green in finite space.
For when the frail hand turns cold and the longing heart
catches the morning in its own timid throat,
the body retreats, returns to the silence that gazes
at a sleeping face. And when love wakes up anew
without a touch, the body, saturated with memory,
blazes to the embers. Bone to bone, we burn alone,
steadfast and present, reduced to that faint heap of ash.

0-4JOEL VEGA’s first poetry collection DRIFT (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2019), won the Philippines’ 2019 National Book Award for Poetry in English. A two-time Carlos Palanca Literary Memorial Awards winner, Joel lives in Arnhem, The Netherlands, where he works as publications editor.

Author’s note: “‘Canticle 7’ took off from Mary Sarton’s ‘Canticle 6’ and looks into man’s solitude and the natural world. Using the garden as a setting, ‘Canticle 7’ addresses the mortality of the human body, its place in the cosmos and links to the natural environment.”

Other works
From Makassar

These poems are for Flora and Nacian.

Link to Table of Contents.