Ronald Baytan

(Manila / Philippines)

Bath House Blues - Poem by Ronald Baytan

Once more, I have set foot
On this promised land
Where dark is right
And silence is the source
Of all thrills.
All around me,
Men strut naked
Save for white briefs,
Neon trunks,
Torn green towels
About their waists.

No need for words
In this no-woman’s land.

But the promise is not
For everyone.
One empty stare,
And we are reminded
Of what we have:
The belly only pregrant
Women should have,
The chest only Siddharta
Buddha should possess,
The body of Ganesh
The glass ruthlessly mirrors.

In one forgotten corner,
An old queen stands.
He wears his woes
On his wrinkled face.
Though he smiles his best,
Love or lust will not find him
On this island where
Youth and beauty conspire.

And so the likes of us
Have learned to partake
Of our own flesh.
Our eyes water
For the Ramas in our midst,
Celestial creatures ignorant
Of despair. Their eyes cannot
See us—we the Untouchables.

And so the likes of us
Have learned:
Dark cannot right
Our cursed bodies.
In the end, the only thrill,
And real dread, is swallowing
Our grief in horror,
In silence.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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