Once Upon A Time In Manila

Here is an example of narrative poetry with a supernatural twist. I hope you like it

This story originally appeared in Philippine Graphic, December 4, 2006

Once Upon A Time In Manila

By Jonathan Aquino

Jose Javier Reyes Hospital, second floor:

I was making tumpik-tumpik on the corridor;

Then a guy approached, some dude

wearing a blood-red Che Guevara shirt,

Giordano Blues, no socks and no shoes.

He nodded at me and I did likewise.

“Where’s your ward, man?” I asked.

“Last one on the left,” he said, and “Hey!”

“Hey what?” I asked, surprised,

and he said he saw me the other day

downstairs when he has his x-rays.

He asked me if I had some cigarettes

and I said, “Yeah, but we can’t smoke,”

and he said, “Rules, rules, rules!”

“Oliver,” he said, and “Pioneer,” I said, and he

asked what the heck I meant. “Me,”

I clarified. “That’s my name,” I said, and he

replied, “What a weird thing to call anybody!

Just then, a man rushed past, ignoring us,

And banged at the Nurse Station, and an intern,

Florence Nightingale she’s not, told him to shut up

and finished her text joke, probably to Dr. Creep,

then she put on some make-up.

Finally, they went to the farthest ward.

Oliver said, “My ward, and added, “My dad.”

“That’s my old man,” he explained, and said, “Mi Padre.”

“You freaking hablo Español?!” I asked, amazed.

“Un poco” he said. “A little. My dad and I,”

he confessed, “are not on speaking terms,” and I

of course, would never ask why. I nodded:

it’s always wise not to volunteer advice.

“I’m into astrology!” I told him with pride

and asked his sign. “Aquarius.” he replied,

and solemnly, like the Oracle at Dolphy,

I revealed he was born on the sign of water,

and he was speechless in wonder

at my profound wisdom. “Your favorite song,”

I said, “is Cool Change,” and he nearly cried;

“Little River Band!” he joyfully said, in a voice

loud enough to wake up the dead.


“They’re pumping now,” he said.

I said nothing, just nodded.

“By the way, who’s with you?” he asked.

“Nobody,” I said, my sorrow masked.

We were silent for a moment.

“It’s over,” said Oliver.

I nodded. “Life,” I said, brooding.

He nodded too. “And Death,” he said, sighing.

A little while later,

there materialized an orderly,

pushing a stretcher,

a dirty white sheet over

the mortal remains of Oliver.

We shook our heads dolefully

as it passed through us squeakily

Photo courtesy of Vagabondish.com


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