What the Trees Know

23 Jul

Trees murmur

They whisper secrets to you.

Secrets that you’ll forget

As soon as you get up

From underneath their shadow.

But they are important secrets, nonetheless.

They’ll whisper secrets,

Not only to you

But to the young, tabby cat

Climbing a branch to escape an older, tabby cat.

(Who,  i bet, is bullying the young one).

They whisper

To the fearless squirrel, too,

Who ignores you as it scampers up and down a tree.


Trees murmur.

They’ll whisper secrets to you.

Secrets that you’ll forget as soon as you wake up from that half-sleep

You fell into,  lulled by the breeze.

It’s not easy to get these secrets, in the first place.

You’d need an oasis.

A place with trees.

A place that would be open to you.

Because odds are,  it’s been privatized for the condo they’re building next to you

Or it was torn down to build the condo next to you.


But let’s say you find this place,

Where you can lie down under the tree

In the summer

For, maybe, hours,

To slow down

Even your breathing.

Hear no noise,

No gunshots or cop cars, militarizing your hood.

Then, you might be able to begin.

Slowing down,

Even your breathing,

Calming down from all the fear and rage

Of seeing your people killed again and again.

Once you’ve slowed down enough,

You’ll hear the trees murmur

In the breeze.

Whisper secrets to you,

Let you think about other things —

Other than the fact that you might lose health insurance,

Because tax breaks to the rich is more important than health care for the rest of us.

The murmuring —

It will give you the space you thought you didn’t have

To think about other things

Like differentiating bird song,

Or marking the progress of one determined ant,

Or if you’re lucky, feel the grass grow.

Feel it pushing out of the earth,

Underneath your hand.


In the meantime,

The trees murmur

In the breeze

Whispering,  whispering to you…

Well, you forgot.

But you know it was important,

Because you feel the secret from the tree,

As you return, fierce-eyed, to the battle for your people.



By Melanie Dulfo

Written 2017.07.22




Of Things Past, Feelings Now

26 Jun


We sat on your stoop
On a summer night,
Drinking hard root beer with a scoop of ice cream
And watching airplanes, as moving lights, leave from JFK.

Your house sits on a hill
And the landscape slopes gently down
And in the distance are the tiny markers
Of a city crowded.

In the distance, fireworks erupt
Like flowers on a bed of night.
You played that weird, but good, chill jazz hiphop,
And we talked about:

Things past, feelings now,
A friend who asked you what made you pop the question,
And how do mothers who fight in the people’s armies
Take care of their children?


Just earlier, when we ate dinner
At the barbecue pit, staffed entirely by people of color,
we talked with Lois, the manager, and the woman
Whose name we didn’t get,

About how they catered our wedding,
How it was cool that it was a laid-back wedding
Where everyone had so much fun
Dancing, and eating, and asking for rolls.

We had also reminisced. Things past, but feelings now.
You thanked me for searching for this place
After our first caterer doubled the amount.
You said you took it for granted back then.

The food at the BBQ joint remained amazing,
And you and I joked about eating at the chicken place
Right beside the BBQ joint, for a second dinner,
But we would settle for a hard root beer float.


And much earlier,
As we hung out at the beach,
At the end of the day,
When we could do little but take pictures and talk,

We talked about things past
The forum earlier that day, Iftar the night before
How fasting was really challenging,
and the racist patient you had.

I loved how the sky was blue,
The feel of the sand on my feet,
Though you wished it were warmer
On the beach, and sea gulls away from us.

We actually tried to swim.
But the water was too cold, the waves too big,
And we worried about rip tides.
So, we just splashed and played in the water.


Much earlier, you know,
You came home, from your 12 hour shift, and said,
“Here’s the car, do what you have to do.”
But I longed to stay with you in bed.

I got up, however, because duty called.
Repair relations with an ally, with a replacement bullhorn
Support the collective life, and ensure the safety of others
And go to the summit for workers.

Throughout, because of the hot summer morning,
I was struck with homesickness for the Philippines
Throughout, as we talked about the conditions
Of legalized slavery for more profit of the few,

And as I had an informal chat on legalized modern slavery
With the staff of the church, as I worked on a white paper
For conditions of massage parlor workers,
I felt how things past had filled us to the brim.

Of feelings now. Feelings now.
Of anger, and grief at the deaths of our people
In Marawi, of Charleena, of Philando, of Nabra
Of those in Finsbury Park.

How all we can do is
Resist, rise, and come together
On days like this. And reassure one another
That with our action,

That T-visa will come for that worker,
That one day, Philando and Charleena will have justice,
That those like Nabra will not have to fear,
That our homes will not be bombed.

We live with a few perfect days
In an imperfect world, without justice.
We live still loving one another, because in the end,
This is what they cannot take away.

Our intense love for each other,
Wherever, whenever we are.
by Melanie Dulfo


18 May

Sometimes, all you need is the people
Sometimes, far away from the place of struggle
Living in the belly of the beast
You feel as if the struggle is no longer your story
No longer your narrative
But remember
That the struggle of the people
Of the poor
Of the masses
Is your story
Your own.
That no matter how hard it has gotten
No matter how disappointed you have been
Or how demoralized in the fight
The struggle is ever-present
And the people only wait,
Even as they continue the fight,
Continue to die,
In the wars that you never see,
And continue to fight the battles never heard,
Like Freddie Ligaw
Who died because he wanted to protect his people.
They only wait.
The people only wait.
Know that you are integral to the movement
And the movement is integral to you
To you feeling free
Feeling free from being dogged down
By a 9-5
That looks only to profit from you and your labor
Feeling trapped
By your student debt
Not being able to help your family survive
Not being able to start your own family
Not being able to ride the train
And be free from the sight of poverty
See how many
Have lost their homes
Their loves
And their lives
Lost in that gap
That gap between
Having and not having.
When all that is valued is profit.
When all that is valued are things
You become a thing.
The struggle is part of you.
Your everyday life
Is submerged in the struggle
Although you never see it
Although it seems far away
Because you being free
Isn’t cast by a ballot
But is bound up
In the liberation of your people.
Even if it is hard
Even if you are dog tired
Even if you feel like you are useless
Come and be part of the struggle
To feel free
All you need
Is the people.

Written for A Special Evening with Norma Capuyan
March 18, 2014

Kahit ang Ulan (Even the Rain)

9 Mar

Kahit ang ulan

Even the rain. 

Kahit ang ulan

Even the rain.

Nanakawin nila kahit ang ulan

They will steal even the rain.

Hindi ka ba natatakot?

Do you not fear

Na nanakawin nila kahit ang ulan?

That they will steal even the rain?

Mas higit pa sa pagnanakaw ni Juan ng apoy mula sa mga diyos

More than man stealing fire from the gods

Ninakaw ng mga diyos ang tubig mula sa bayan.

The gods have stolen water from the people.

Nilagyan nila ng mga bakod ang mga lawa

They put fences around the lakes

At ang mga ilog

And the rivers

At sinabi nila na wala tayong karapatang uminom mula sa mga ilog at lawa na ito.

And said that it was not ours to drink from.

Kaya’t inantay natin ang ulan

We waited for the rain

At nilabas ang ating mga dila

And held out our tongues

Uhaw at tigang

Parched and thirsty.

Tinutukan nila ng mga balisong ating mga leeg

And they held a knife to our throats

Pinagbawalan tayong uminom

And told us not to drink.

At sa huli

That in the end,

Nilagyan nila ng buwis ang tubig

The water was taxed.

At sa huli

In the end,

Kahit ang ulan

Even the rain

Kahit ang ulan

Even the rain

Ay ninakaw

Was stolen.

Tantohin mong kahit nagdala ka ng armas o hindi upang lumaban

And know that whether you had taken up arms or not.

Nanakawin nila ang lahat

They will steal everything from you

Kahit ang ulan

Even the rain.

Kaya sinasabi namin sa inyo:

So we say to you:

Magdala ka ng armas

Take up arms

At lumaban ka

And fight.

Magdala ka ng armas

Take up arms,

At iyong mga bala

With your bullets,

Na gawa mula sa boses ninyo

Made of your voice,

Na gawa mula sa kamao ninyo

Made of your fists.

Magdala ka ng armas

Take up arms,

Dahil nanakawin nila

Because they will steal

Kahit ang ulan

Even the rain.



Strappy, Strappy

30 Oct

As if I had known you
As if
There had been no time
That I did not know your story
Or the way you
shone in the sun
Or the way you
gleamed in yellow street lamps

This must be
How it feels
To want to tear it
From your skin
To want to rip out
The want.
The wanting.
Even if it remains
The way
That your scent
Only known
In the huddle
For heat

Because you know
That this is inevitable
The endless
Of eager feet
Flying to
Your side
Of flying to your side

Counting down
On every stop
The time
Could stop
While I came
And closer
Then wishing
Time could stop
Or the night
Did not end
Or the sunrise
Did not come

Even if the sunrise
Had no face;
No mouth
With which
To say
It stopped us,

And so
I wonder
How will this grow?
Will it
Safely remain
Diffuse into the ether?
A scent,
No. Not even.
Merely a whisper
Of something
Called want.

Or will it
Make itself known?
Over and over again,
And calling
To my blood,
And thighs.
And red,

Tell me.
Tell me.
Tell me.


Real Indiana, or All the Things I Saw Today

26 Jul

Indiana Jones was the coolest person I knew when I was ten years old.

Hat, whip , and all,

Climbing mountains,

Swimming in rivers and seas,

Saving damsels-in-distress.

And in general, being an all-around-bad-ass


Indiana Jones was the coolest person I knew when I was ten years old.

Fear of snakes and all.

And while all the survival TV shows

Of manly men dropped in deserts, arctic wastelands and rainforests

Could be, sometimes, just as cool,

They just couldn’t beat out good, old Indie.


Now, while Indiana Jones was the coolest when I was ten,

The coolest I know at almost-thirty

Is one of the F15,

Gwiyomi-dance and all;

And one-half of Doi Nomazi

Red Bull energy drink and all.


See, the best thing from Indiana Jones

That I learned at the age of ten,

Was that I can scale mountains.

I can take on 14-foot waves.

Me, in my little boat,

Off the coast of Florida.


And this is the best thing you can learn when you’re ten.

Because when 25 people, the richest in your country,

Have the same amount of money as equal to the total money

Of billions of people in the same country,

You need to believe

That you can scale mountains

And swim against tidal waves.


If you live in a time when

Every 3 hours, a Filipino gets HIV,

Well, you need to believe

That you have strength, courage, and tenacity.

That you can reach the top

While working on the rockface in front of you.


If you see a picture of an elderly woman from your town.

Unable to work,

Living in a shanty,

And just asking for a fistful of rice

“Usa ka kumkom bugas “

You have to believe that you can scale mountains.


The best thing I learned at nearly thirty is this:

I can beat the bad guys.

I can make them quake in their boots

Simply, simply

By standing up and telling my tale.

Just that.  Stand and share.


Share this:

“I am a mother and a daughter.

And I decided to work overseas,

Going to far-away places, like Dubai

Separated from my son

Because I wanted to give him a better life.

And when I got to the Land of the Free


“I was trafficked.

In Tagalog, ‘niloko kami ng agency namin,

Hindi pinasahod ng ayos o tama, nawalan ng visa,’

No jobs, no papers.  As promised in the contract.

Even though I paid so much to get here.  Legally, too.

And the company had been endorsed by the government.


People’s families in hospitals.

And there was still nothing.

Nothing from employer.

And so I decided enough was enough.

And I, together with my comrades,

Stood up and said we would fight.”


Now, say this:

“I will fight.

I will continue to fight.  Tuloy ang Laban.

Because I can scale the highest mountains.

I can swim in the deepest seas

I am the real Indiana.”


Do not ever forget:

You and I can

Scale high mountains.

Swim deep seas.

We can.

For we are powerful.



23 Jan

I wonder why they say heartfelt.
Such a tame word.
When a more proper word would be visceral.
Really the deepest emotions are raw.
Coming from the viscera.
From your guts.
Whether it’s love or anger or anguish.
Is when you
See a sad movie.
Is when you
See Ondoy or Sendong
Unfold before your eyes.
Is when you yell
At your sister
Over unauthorized borrowing of your things.
Is when you realize
That floods happen
Because they profited from your trees and your gold
And stole your people’s lives.
Is when you are moved
To help someone stand up when they trip.
Is when you are moved
To stand up and speak about yout know is just and right and fair.
Heartfelt does not compare to visceral.
Heartfelt is Hollywood.
But visceral is real life.
And this here, you and I,
What we feel is visceral
Raw love
And anger
A feeling that you do not have to think about.
That will have you on your feet
Even before you think.
A feeling that moves your body.
A feeling that crosses
An ocean
Back to our homeland
A home lost
Because we had no jobs
And we were forced to migrate
A feeling
That our people feel in the homeland
As if we and our people back home
Were twins in the womb
Feeling one and the same.
Like, we were
Like water
Indivisible from one another.
Keep this feeling
You, the youth
Whose blood and fire cannot be quenched
And we, the people.
Whose rise cannot be stopped
Will not only recover the road, our road
But our land
As well as our home
And our hearts.

Performed for Road to Recovery, November 2011