Rudy F. Alano's Kauntukan

In Rudy F. Alano's collection of poetry, silence is a pause. Kauntukan.

In that space of silence, so many things take place. The extraordinary is disclosed; the ordinary evinces.

The origins of these silences are discrete and diverse.

There are tricks up the sleeve of the poet: that memory is itself caught in between silences and these pauses render themselves in geographical forms, manifests in some charming metaphysics but all the time retaining the wink of the physical, recoils into the range of the sublime and the gross.

The collection opens with "This Recollection" (Ining Pagrumdom). Here the silences are about aging: out of my old silences in the ways of youth. Here silences can be touched and measured: ... soft silences/shushing time and space.

Two poems contain the silences in the two months of the year, October and September.

In "September Somewhere," the alliteration is breathtaking but not facile because they are not externalized: Still in this room silence strains the music/of the laughter you sang betraying shadows/that betoken pain, deep and quick. In Bikol, the lines run: Liwat sa kuartong ini and kauntokan hinihigotan/an musika kang ngising inawit mo na túyong pinapaluwas/ang mga aninong nagpapasabong kulog, hararom asin hidali'an.

The poem "Until Next October" is more relentless. The poet pleads first that he be not remembered in the withering of roses and the coming of the rain. The images of romance beguile because the poetry terminates in a self-effacement that is wildly original in its self-condemnation: For it's I/the evil one,/ shall remember you with a murderous mind. Savor the Bikol translation: Ta ako,/ang maraot na tawo,/na may makagadan na isip, an marumdom saimo."

Still, love is not all in Rudy's works. If it were all, then we might as well pack up our bags and leave for the universe next door of real pains and real sorrows and graces. And so Rudy regales us with about the sweetness of death, his lines bear what Pablo Neruda calls the "implacable sweetness." Two elegies bear witness to this: one is titled ""Late Elegy: To My Father." The poet remembers a father leaving "empty shells of love and regret." The poet then sticks his "ears to them" and hears "your silence roaring/for immortality."

The other poem is to a poet, Deme Briñas, a member of our group who died young. In "Perhaps The Words You Shall Tell me, Deme," the poet shifts from fury to exasperation (But this darkness mocks your faith./The blood of your father stirs again to strengthen/your soul to soar and to reach the sky). From heathen to believer (you stare at your cold,/ask for a drink of blood, and fall upon your knees.)

Those who love Rudy say he is deathly afraid of death. In his poem for Deme, he closes it with these lines: And there/in the unknown air/some dark angel stares with unbelieving eyes/at the steady beating of your heart. Here is the Bikol translation: Asin duman/sa dai ta aram na estaran may sarong anghel/sa diklom nakaturuhok ang paghiling na dai/,makatubod sa nadadangog niyang daing-pundong/bagting kang saimong puso.

I like the idea that the music in our heart when we are there in the unknown air can surprise an angel. Mortality shocks the boring immortality,

The French poet and critic,  Stéphane Mallarmé, said, "It is the job of poetry to clean up our word-clogged reality by creating silences around things." Rudy has done more than that. He has charted for us silences and spaces where God is dark and we have access to the toilet habits of the angels, where time is realized to be overrated, and where rains have million meanings, and where love involves the fingering of the hair of the armpit, where silence is there between sounds, and where if one forgets because sometimes there is nothing to remember the "memories dim but (wonderfully) everlastingly.'

Now, if the mind fails, then, he assures us with the memories of his city, Naga on summer afternoons and the smell of asphalt on the road dotted with candle droppings from recent processions, we can rise with all the loves we can recall.

Last Sunday, March 21, some people came home from near and far to pay tribute to Rudy F. Alano and be with him for the launching of his collection of Bikol poems entitled "MGA KAUNTOKAN: Pinili asin Binikol na Berso" (SILENCES: Selected Poems and Translations." This essay is the first draft of the introduction to the book.