BIRDMAN, 1973

There are summers such as this: birds being sold and the harmony

Of their captivity clenches a heart and stirs up a loneliness.

There beside the church. Now I understand the Messiah when he forced

Open every cage and fed the expanse feathered laments.

The gliding alchemy of the colors can be seen like the sudden

Flight of ripped banderitas from the last Fiesta, alighting on the lap

Of galvanized roofs. These are their fields and forests. Every grain in our palm,

Serving like an unassuming trough, deceives. Sometime during the last war,

Pigeons were trained to pilot bombs. Food was exchanged

For every right peck targeted on the map. They were trained to surpass birds of prey.

The project ended when their beaks met the locks. Their billowing waves

Dawn in the horizon while their keepers were left suspended

In their sighs. The merchants needed to flee.

The bamboo cages clang from their flapping wings. For a moment,

They seem to be in the river, singing the melodies they love.



WHITE BIRDS DARK SHADOWS, 1962



This is the moment of destruction: light against light in an apocalyptic flame,

Incinerating the calm outline of morning. It’s easy to say burning even

The wildfire. The lesson of the chameleon vivifies—in times of bewilderment



All color changes: the blue sky yellows. This instance,

A bouquet of birds snatches their shadows like soldiers

Evacuating the flag in the face of defeat. They know they will be left as silhouettes



In the mountainside if they do not flee the labyrinth of the first petroglyphs:

Sketches of a once free spirit. Watch: the resolve of their flapping

As it soars in the dissolving brightness: the thinning feathers and fury appear like



Petals of jasmine wisping after being plucked by the wind. Fervor

Is learned first by those who want to live, however their flight muscles boil,

The destination fading from view. I wish to believe that paradise is there



But words have disdained me. They have nothing to lighten the blast,

Perhaps, silence. The silence after every prayer; the silence after

The torn singing of migratory birds—reviving our devastated world.



Original ↓

BIRDMAN, 1973

May mga tag-araw na katulad nito: may mga inilalakong ibon

At ang harmoniya ng kanilang pagkakabilanggo’y nakakakuyom

Ng puso at nakakapukaw ng mingaw. Doon ito sa may simbahan.

Nauunawaan ko na ngayon ang Mesiyas nang binaklas niya

Ang bawat hawla at isinubo sa kalawakan ang mga binagwisang

Hinagpis. Nagsasalimbayang alkemiya ng mga kulay ang natatanaw

Tulad ng biglaang paglipad ng napigtal na banderitas ng nakaraang

Pista, napadapo sa kandong ng mga yero. Ito na ang parang at gubat

Sa kanila. Nakakalansi ang bawat butil sa ating palad tila maamong

Labangan ang naghahain. Minsan, noong nakaraang digma, tinuruan

Ang mga kalapating magpiloto ng bomba. May kapalit na makakain

Sa tamang pagtuka sa itinutudla sa mapa. Higit sa mga mandaragit

Sila hinuhubog. Natigil ang proyekto nang nakilala ng kanilang tuka

Ang mga kandado. Lumiliwayway sa panginoorin ang maiindayog

Na pagkaway samantalang naiiwang nakabitin sa buntong-hininga

Ang kanilang mga amo. Kailangang lumayo ng mamang naglalako.

Kakalampag sa pagaspas ng mga pakpak ang mga kulungang kawayan.

Sansaglit, tila naroroon sila sa ilog, umaawit ng kanilang iniibig na himig.



WHITE BIRDS DARK SHADOWS, 1962

Ito ang sandali ng pagkagunaw: liwanag laban sa liwanag ng apokaliptikong pagliyab,

Tinutupok ang panatag na balangkas ng umaga. Madaling sabihing nasusunog maging

Ang mga ilahas na ningas. Nagkakabuhay ang aral ng hunyango—sa panahon ng gimbal



Nagbabago lahat ng kulay: nagsasadilaw ang langit na bughaw. Sa pagkakataong ito,

Dinadagit ng pumpon ng mga ibon ang kanilang mga anino tulad ng mga ayudanteng

Tinatakas ang bandera sa harap ng pagkagapi. Batid nilang maiiwan silang bakas-anino



Sa gilid ng bundok kung hindi makakalayo na tila laberinto ng mga sinaunang petroglipo:

Mga banghay ng minsang malalayang nilalang. Pagmasdan: pumapailanlang ang kaselanan

Ng kanilang pagpagaspas sa nakakalusaw na silaw: maninipis na bagwis at bangis kahawig



Ng mga talulot ng sampagang sumasalimbad matapos pagpipitasin ng hangin. Pagkasigasig

Ang unang natutuhan ng mga nais mabuhay kahit kumukulo ang kalamnan ng pakpak,

Nabubura sa paningin ang paroroonan. Nais kong maniwala na naroroon ang paraiso



Ngunit ikinahihiya ako ng mga salita. Wala sa mga ito ang makakapagpapaagan sa pagsabog,

Marahil, katahimikan. Katahimikan pagkatapos ng bawat panalangin; katahimikan pagkatapos

Ng punit-punit na pag-awit ng mga migranteng ibon—ipinipintig ang wasak nating daigdig.

Translator's Note

These poems are taken from an ekphrastic suite, Manansala, named after the National Artist of the Philippines in visual art, Vicente Manansala, known for his cubist paintings. These poems take inspiration from a series of poems painted by Manansala of birds. Though in painting we are given a static image, the texture of Manansala’s technique animates the birds, foregrounding their lividity amidst the incomprehension of overlapping lines. Similarly, Villasis foregrounds the freedom of the birds to cross boundaries in a ‘devastated world’ through language.

The challenge of translating these poems lie in the poet’s language. The language used here is musical and oftentimes makes use of words originating from Bisaya, another Philippine language, rather than Tagalog, from which Filipino, the national language, is based. I have tried recreating the music and rhythm of the poems.


Bernard Capinpin

×

In the Classroom

×