we walk

your hand in mine
is trust
that I will watch for the fast cars
as we cross the road

my hand in yours
is time
to walk in the sunshine
before this day moves on


i will write you


as soon as I stop
the happy music in my head
that always


when I hold you



your mama's lotion
that we put on your winter skin
smells like vanilla

and so as you snuggle
I remember ice cream
from my childhood

and in my old years
when I have ice cream
I will remember
you snuggling
when you were two



grief lives on your shoulders
like a load that you try to forget
or do not even realize
you are carrying
until the weariness hits you

grief lives in the pit of your stomach
like a ball of lead
It is voracious
but you are empty
It brings you hunger
and you eat
maybe to crowd it away
maybe to sate it

grief comes up
and catches in your throat
at the worst moments
in the middle of a word
when a thought
or a sound
or a name
all that you have lost

(Teo, may it be a while before you have to deal with grief.)



Josue Ben Carmen de la Peña

No poetry today. Just reflections.

Your Uncle JB, your dad's eldest brother, died last week/
It was the second of September.

He was just fifty-four.

I am sad that he did not get to meet you, nor you meet him
(at least in this life).

He took care of me when I was your age.

I look at the pictures your grandfather took of his firstborn
and I can imagine him holding JB as I hold you.
Praying for him as I pray for you.

Your cousins, Jed, Nina and Trixie, asked me to write
a eulogy for your uncle -my Kuya JB.

This is what I said:


My earliest recollection of Kuya was when I was about 3 or 4 years old. We were living in a small two-story apartment in Project 6. The family would spend evenings around our old black and white tv set - usually watching basketball.

Inevitably I would fall asleep on my mother's lap, and my Dad would ask Kuya JB, the "panganay" to take the "bunso" up to bed.

I knew if I was even slightly awake, my Dad would ask me to walk up to my bed myself. I wanted to be carried up so i often pretended to be asleep. Something that I couldn't get past Kuya, who would take me and stand me up on the stairs and gently walk me up each step, trying to get me to stand on my own two feet.

I would pretend, with all the success a three-year old could muster, to be unresponsive. Kuya found this funny and I remember his trademark chuckle. It was kind of a long giggle, that sounded like "hee hee hee." I'm sure all his friends would remember that chuckle.

And my earliest recollection circumscribes memories of Kuya.
-A light sense of humour. Gentleness.

I'm sure Ate Ching and Kuya Verne would have more stories to tell about Kuya.

I'm sure Ate Emma and Kuya Eric, would have more, too.
He was in his teens by the time I came into the world.

The best stories would probably have come from Mom and Dad - who took great pride in their firstborn. I remember pictures of a very young JB - school medals pinned to his chest. Dad had kept a "file" for each of his children, where he kept our diplomas and certificates. Kuya's file was the thickest one. Overflowing with awards from his elementary and high school years.

Despite those medals, I hardly remember Kuya ever calling attention to himself. I remember him always at the sidelines. Ready with his giggle that would often grow into a laugh. Smiling -but always watching over younger siblings. Steady. Gentle.

Kuya was always Kuya. The eldest in the brood. Eldest among the six, eldest among the cousins on the de la Pena side, too.

I think the only time I remember Kuya purposely being the center of attention was one glorious summer in our hometown of Kayquit when Kuya was in his late teens.

Kuya became the big hometown basketball star. He was the star import of the Kayquit, Indang, Cavite basketball league and was, if I recall correctly, singularly responsible for the Kayquit team's winning streak.

Being so good at the sport, he of course attracted attention -wanted and unwanted. I remember Auntie Doy teasing my eldest brother about the local girls who had a crush on the star basketball player. I also remember Uncle Fil bristling at someone being too rough on the court with Kuya.

I think those were about the only times I could remember Kuya being the center of attention. I think he often preferred to be on the sidelines. Watching. He had a quiet confidence in him, and if he had any worries, he kept them to himself.

I remember Kuya as an artist -skilled. Gifted with insight. Never vain or spectacular. Always practical. Always responsible. His graphics were as he was - effective, steady but never calling attention to itself.

I remember Mom telling me the real reason why Kuya never got his degree in Fine Arts. He knew that our family couldn't afford the cost of the final exhibition and reception that was part of the requirements for the degree. (A pastor's income is small -and must be stretched when raising six kids.)

So, in his senior year, he dropped out. Doing what seemed to be an irresponsible act, for the most responsible reasons.

Then, as always, Kuya didn't feel the need to explain himself. I think he inherited Dad's introversion. But he definitely had Mom's sense of humour.

He was Kuya to all of us. But I know he was husband and best friend to his wife.

I remember meeting Ate Beth for the first time when Kuya brought her to sunday lunch at the parsonage in Citadel Church in Project 4.

They were in classmates in college, and I think they had just begun dating. I was about 7 years old. Kuya JB introduced Ate Beth to the family and I promptly stood up on my chair and cheered "Magkakapamangkin na ako!" ("I'll finally get a nephew!") -and this was years before they got married. Years before Jed was born. Maybe I was channeling my Mom's secret wishes.

I remember how he took me along on one of his dates with Ate Beth - to introduce me to Ate Beth's youngest brother (who was then about my age). He was still being Kuya even as he was courting the love of his life.

I remember their wedding. I remember Kuya JB's goofy smile at the altar -with a "nakaisa" ("scored one") expression on his face.

My clearest memories of Kuya are of him with his children. Kuya doted over and was openly affectionate to each of them.

He indulged Jed with toy cars. And proudly showed off the young man's artwork. I still remember Jed as a little boy sitting on Kuya's lap.

I remember Kuya doting over Nina. He loved Nina's long curls when she was a toddler. (I remember how one hot summer, Ate Beth had to secretly get Nina a haircut - because she knew Kuya would miss Nina's long locks.)

I remember him joking around with Nina. He used to ask Nina whether she preferred to be "magandang pangit or pangit na maganda."

And always that giggle.

I remember him doting over Trixie, who was, and always will be his baby.

As he was with me, his youngest sibling, he was with his kids: gentle, firm, loving. Watching on the side, quiet, dependable. In a word: faithful.

Having grown up in a pastor's household, we strangely never talked about faith. But we lived it. I could see it in Kuya and the way he conducted himself, the way he treated others. It was a stronger witness than any testimony I had heard in church. As he was, so he lived his faith, never vain -never calling attention to itself. Quiet, gentle and faithful.

I regret, as does Kuya Eric, to have missed Kuya JB's last days. I share my sadness with my siblings and their families. i share my sadness with Ate Beth and with Jed and Nina and Trixie -who must miss him even more.

I will miss his quiet presence. His ready giggle.

I will miss you, Kuya. But I look forward to seeing you again, soon.

*-"older brother"



be gentle
be careful
be patient
good job

if we teach you nothing else
may these four stick

be gentle
be careful
be patient
good job

three to love others
one to love yourself

be gentle
be careful
be patient
good job

quality time

on our stomachs
shunting trucks
like thomas

on our feet
giggling as i chase you
and you chase me back

on my lap
you point out
you turn the page
to see the hungrycaterpillar
eat the fiveoranges

with cups in the tub
with trains on the carpet
with blocks on the floor


we count your toes
you ride on my shoulders

i revel in your
boundless joy

you cannot stand still

i wish we could pause
for a moment

my eyes are still drunk
with the sight of you
learning to walk

but you have grown
far too quickly
into running


my wife (your mother)
lies on our bed

two creatures upon her:
you, asleep on her breast
and moxie (the-cat-who-owns-you)
curled on her leg

blessed sleep
peace and comfort



st. judy's comet

making space for words from a wiser man. my current favorite to sing the boy to sleep.

St. Judy's Comet
(From the album "THERE GOES RHYMIN' SIMON")
Words & music by Paul Simon

Oo, little sleepy boy
Do you know what time it is?
Well the hour of your bedtime's winding past
And though I know you're fighting it
I can tell when you rub your eyes
You're fading fast, oh fading fast

Won't you run come see St. Judy's Comet
Roll across the skies
And leave a spray of diamonds in its wake
I long to see St. Judy's Comet
Sparkle in your eyes when you awake
Oh, when you wake, wake

Little boy
Won't you lay your body down
Little boy
Won't you close your weary eyes
Ain't nothing flashing but the fireflies

Well I sang it once and I sang it twice
I'm going to sing it three times more
I'm going to stay 'til your resistance
Is overcome
'Cause if I can't sing my boy to sleep
Well it makes your famous daddy look so dumb
look so dumb

Won't you run come see St. Judy's Comet
Roll across the skies
And leave a spray of diamonds in its wake
I long to see St. Judy's Comet
Sparkle in your eyes when you awake
Oh, when you wake, wake

Little boy, little boy
Won't you lay your body down
Little boy, little boy
Won't you close your weary eyes
Ain't nothing flashing but the fireflies

Oo, little sleepy boy
Do you know what time it is?
Well the hour of your bedtime's long been past
And though I know you're fighting it
I can tell when you rub your eyes
You're fading fast, oh fading fast


fifty-four today. a sunday.

how many children does it take
to make you notice, america?
how many of our children?

do they have to dance
and prance about in pageants?
must they be killed
by their own mothers
before you take notice?
must they return unborn
before you value them?

how many children does it take?
how many of our children
is it worth to achieve "sustainable peace"?

will anyone be left to sustain it?

(I know you have sent your own
for reasons I still cannot understand
and I grieve your loss as much.
they were grown men of twenty years or more.
at least you saw the pleasure of their play
before you lost them.)

will five of our four year olds
suffice for one of yours?

how many children does it take, america?
how many of our children
before you say enough.


and leave us time to hold those
still breathing.


with prayers to the One who called peacemakers "blessed"
and blessed the little ones of Judea, Samaria and Nazareth.



i must learn
of my beloved
how he loved
his only son

free to be
and be beloved
let me hold you
as his arms

i am nowhere
near as present
i am broken
he is whole

but beloved
let me love you
he will free me
-teach me
-love me

to become


hold still, my child, hold still
there is shelter in my arms
hold still

the water is not calm, you struggle
ripples growing into waves, you flail
overwhelming, overwhelming you

hold still, my child, hold still
there is safety in my arms
hold still

i am truth, not the waves
i am ever after, not the countless
frantic moments of your flailing

hold still, dear child, hold still
the water will not overcome my arms
the water still obeys me
hold still

listen closer, past the crashing water
to the silent steady heart that loves you best
i am here, we are steady

i will hold you still



it's not all up to me,
thank God

I am clay
and you are fragile


he has
ground away my edges
so I might be useful


there is a joy
in you
that is the newness
of all things

we are too old
to even faintly remember

you let me enjoy
the wonder
through your wide, wide eyes


there is a stubborn
in you,
son of adam,
same as the stubborn
in me

and so
I must find
the fine line between
your will and your spirit

so I do not fracture
the one
as I (must) temper
the other



every morning
like a ritual
you raise your hands
and they surprise you
I watch you
regard them with wonder
you turn
each hand
and turn
each again

fist and open palm

your fingers
long for your age
are beautiful

are you amazed
at what they can do?

you will be



I said aloud what was
previously unspoken


it would probably break me

your mother
reminded me
of your name

that you are



("life's longing for itself")

and that we are
but caretakers

still, I
would rather not
wear job or abram's cloth

it would probably break me



I must get them all in now
give you a surplus of them
now, dear son
while they still tickle
and make you chuckle with delight

pretty soon you will grow
to be too fast
to be too busy
(chasing bugs, chasing dogs
biking past the little old ladies in the park)

pretty soon
you will have
too many things to do
too many places to be
to bother

pretty soon you will be
(like all the little boys before you)
too grown up to enjoy
your father's affection


bright and early

you are bright and early
morning person
like me

so we are up
before the sun
before your mother
before the cats have a chance
to shake their groggy ears

you are bright and early
all of promise
more eager than my coffee

as if you want to say
"let's go!
there's so much I have to see
and learn
and be!
let's go!"



I must thank
mr. niepce
when I am older

I am not sure
if my memory
will have the eloquence

to recall
that toothless grin
and gummy smile
and those happy, happy
shining eyes



you revealed
something new about
yourself today

i discovered
something new about
myself today

this is the moment

this is the moment
that we breathe in

from the countless
hurried minutes
of an endless
harried day
this is the moment

this is the moment
that we breathe in

the fret of mind
and dark of soul
are left behind
for one long pause
for sight, and sound and scent

this is the moment
that we breathe in

when you
at peace
in dream
in sleep
remind us that
this is
you are
we now must be
in this fleeting moment
breathing fully be


early riser

your mother likes
that cloudy look
your eyes have
when you begin to stir

as if you still get confused
about where you have landed

then, you look around
and, unless you've had
some bad dream
whose words we cannot
even begin to imagine

you catch our eyes
and measure our faces

and reward us with
a sleepy sweet smile

as if you remember
once again
why it is
that we needed you


weights and measures

they have these
standard curves
of how much
you should be gaining

and so we fret
because you've slowed-down
far two much
over the last two weeks

we fret about feeding
about your little cough
we fret about your sleep
your perspiration

we have a thousand and one fears
a thousand and one worries


one day after

we opened your presents
the day after

your mom and I
want you to celebrate
what is in the manger
not what is under the tree

we opened your presents
(you were not even into tearing paper)

but you enjoyed the company:
(-the night before,
-christmas eve
-christmas dinner)

you were at your best
to stay

in the open circle
of the people who love you most

soon enough
you will look forward
to paper and boxes

but I hope
you return here

and the present
you value most
will once again
be the circle


great expectations

we knew your name
six months before

so many people waiting
so many people waiting

we took our sweet time
and were unsure
even in our seventh year

so many people waiting
so many people

you took your sweet time too
two weeks past
you made us wait our turn

so many people eager to meet you
they speak your name
like you were always
part of us

so many people watching
so many people watching

so many people surround you
with their love


I learned from
your mother
that you were born
without them

or rather that they
didn't fully develop
till about
your second month

and soon enough
you will be using them
to try to pull our strings

but for now
I am grieved
by the sight of
your tears



smile baby

smile, smile, smile baby

smile baby

smile, smile, smile.

step 1

you have learned

(or is it that we have learned?)

you do not like
waking up



(series 1.0)

your little body
fidgets and flails
when you sleep

so we swaddle you
to hold you still

i have to hold your arms down

else you wake yourself up
from your peace

I hold your arms down
and you indulge me
with your calm



I would trade you mine.
But what i have is tattered
threadbare and worn.

It does have space enough for you
and I would hold your heart.

I would hold it. I would hold it. I would hold it. I would hold it. I would hold it.

I would hold it.


my yoke is easy

there will be a time
when you will be

too big or
too busy or
too grown-up

but I will have you know
that you will never be

too heavy


you like the sound

is that why
you like
on my chest?

yours beats
so fast

and your
must have been
while you were

that is
a passion
i hope
you never

to listen
to another heart


how does one
in love
with a child?

taking you home
from the hospital
seemed surreal

we were tired
more than anything

since then
the only pause
to the taking care of you

has been for our own naps
we worry too much at times
to wonder

and yet we steadily
seem to be

there is no jumping
of flesh of my flesh
bone of my bone
myself seeing part of myself
in your fragile hands

maybe the drowsiness
and we bond
despite ourselves

maybe like a dance
rehearsed over a thousand steps
or a piano piece
practiced for hours
the flow becomes a part
of our selves

then there is that

each new day
you seem to be
and you surprise us
with you
over and over



you force time
to stop
or at least
our time
to stop

you first
in your eternity

I am tempted
like all parents
before me
like all parents

to imagine
the deeds you will do
to dream dreams
for you

in your eternity

I am sober
and I know
all I really want
is to be



often I feel
like a

in your intimate
dance with
your mother

she sustains you
you adore her

I am but a bit-player

but then there are those
when you insist
on sleeping on my chest


they grow so fast

i have to
remind myself
before I lose
the moment
when you cry
out your lungs

and I cradle

small enough

in my arms

and look at your delicate fingers

that time is quickly slipping
past my own.

diaper zen

it's always
your nappy
or gas
or hunger
but it takes some guessing
and rocking to calm you
I say, wait
a minute
or two
while I heat the bottle
of milk from your mother's
it does not matter
whether it is
a minute
or two
as what is a minute
to a newborn?