70 Favorite Poems: 32. The Muse This Time by R. Zamora Linmark
[This is the poem that introduced me to R. Zamora Linmark. I fell in love with it--and with him as a poet--immediately. Again it's from the UP Press publication of Philippine Love Poems.]
I am, at the moment, a patron of the meat market. Profession: a poet on-call because poetry only comes when it wants to; hobbies; listening to Gershwin while looking for Freud in Woody Allen movies; history of the heart: six lovers who wanted to be immortalized.
“Funny,” said my fourth, “you can cook up a poem about bumper-to-bumper traffic, but when it’s time to write about me…” How do you explain to someone who makes you come thrice a week and gives you head and foot massage at bedtime why it is much easier to write about gridlock in the land of diesel than return to that humid night in Makati, where we had met, in a Korean-owned steam room, a misnomer since lust provided the heat.
The fifth and sixth were more demanding. “Screw the acknowledgment page,” said the fifth. “I want a biography that sings,” said the sixth. Completely unaware they were making the same request an hour apart from each other, I told them, “What do you take me for? a mail-order poet? Dial-a-poem?”
“I don’t get it,” said the third. “You can create beauty from a dead fish,” said the second. “Destroy buildings in one line,” said the first, “but you cannot write about the good ole devil?”
Their words are stinging now as I approach twilight. Truth is: love’s hard to live with. I forget to set the alarm clock, I buy everything on credit, I start making up words, I call in sick to the world. “Are you a poet?” asked the second. “A lover?” asked the third. “Just shut up and write,” said the first.
I can’t. Nothing is entering. Except the voice of my first lover, the one who set the picture straight. “The problem with you is you think you’re Woody Allen in Manhattan.”
Gershwin’s blue clarinet, black-and-white Big Apple, an ice cream parlor. At the counter, Woody is buying Hemingway’s daughter, Mariel, a milkshake before he delivers the bad news. Tears coursing down her cheeks, she asks, “Why? Because I’m too young? Because I don’t know Rita Hayworth from Veronica Lake? Because I’m not Diane Keaton running with you in the rain?” They split, then a minute before the credits roll, he changes his mind. “I’ll take you back,” Mariel says, “when I return from London.”
That’s the closest to my idea of love: watching the skyline, making out, making mistakes, making believe desire means it’s with somebody else, then breaking up, and, if we’re lucky, forgiveness that comes right before take-off. There, I’ve said it. What more can one want? A lover who loves me as much as the rain. Rain, and, from the opening credits to the closing heart, Gershwin.