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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.
MAKE ME TASTE LIKE
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.