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Sample Poems by Nick Carbó

Ang Tunay Na Lalaki Stalks the Streets of New York

looking to harvest what makes him happy.
The AA meetings have thrown
him into sacrilegious jousts with Titans

and Gorgons with glowing snake eyes
and leather pants. This is life
without the Filipino bottle,

without the star fruit boogie,
without the bomba films.  He wears black
Dr. Martens boots because slippers

would expose his provinciano feet
to the snow. He wants to ride
the back of a carabao and bolt

up Madison Avenue screaming
like Tandang Sora or shout
hala-bira! hala-bira! hala-bira!

like his Isneg cousins in Aklan.
Ay, susmaryosep! Such bad behavior
from the "true male" of Filipino

advertising. He looks at his reflection
on a book store window, notices
that his hair has grown shoulder-length—

like Tonto in the Lone Ranger
he would watch on TV. He turns to the right,
his profile now looks like the young Bruce Lee

as Kato in the Green Hornet. Yes,
he realizes it will always be the face
of a supporting character. Rejected

from the Absolut Vodka ads, he decides
to change his name for an upcoming audition
for a Preparation H commercial—Al Moranas,

American but with a Filipino flare.


Ang Tunay Na Lalaki is Baffled by Cryptic Messages

he finds on cheap match covers.

        A  MAN

is the first one he reads after lighting up
an American Spirit cigarette on the corner
of Broadway and Houston. The painted Statue

of Liberty on the giant DKNY ad on the side
of the building winks her big blue eye
as if she understands what those words mean,

as if she could make him taste like a man.
The street sign changes to WALK
and the natural smoke of the natural cigarette

feels good in his lungs. He thinks
of the taste of fried garlic, of anise seeds,
of rambutan fruit, of broiled tuna—

none comes close to what a man
would taste like in his mind. He reaches
underneath his shirt and sweater to scratch

his left armpit. He smells his fingers
and thinks, this is what a Filipino man
must taste like to American women.

To test his hypothesis, he sticks
his index finger in his mouth, pulls
it out with a slurpy sound and points upward

as if he were testing the wind,
as if he were about to satisfy a desire,
as if he were carrying a flaming torch.

Ang Tunay Na Lalaki Visits His Favorite Painting

in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Not
the Renoirs, the Picassos, the Van Goghs,
or the Titians—he is attracted to a watercolor

by an American, Winslow Homer's
Palm Tree, 1898.  The scene is Nassau
but it could well be Cavite, Nasugbu, or Boracay

back home. The aquamarine blue
is truly tropical where one could dive in
and read the New York Times, watch

the lobsters and the parrotfish
look over the classifieds, or observe
a puffer fish inflate over an article

about the depletion of the rain forests.
The wind blows from right to left
in the foreground and the strips

of palm leaves agree. He can hear
the wind's missives translated
by the leaves—

barometric pressure dropping,
mostly cloudy with cumulus clouds,
something big in the air.

The red flag by the white
lighthouse in the background
blows from left to right suggesting

a circular wind. He remembers
the same conditions on Boracay island
when he looked up and saw the clear

over-heated eye of an angry typhoon.