Massacre Vernacular (Ampatuan** Remix) by Luisa A. Igloria

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

New wicks for lamps?
New lamps for old?
New maps, new towns,
new names for old territories.

For instance: Shariff Aguak
used to be Maganoy town.

No skins will stitch
the dead back new.
Paltik is
a homemade gun: gas pipe
attached to rifle stock
to wire-wrapped barrel.
And there is also
the sumpak:
one can improvise
with whatever is at hand—
rubber tubing, rubber
band for firing pin,
parts salvaged from
an old radio.
stands for civilian
volunteer officer,
which journalists say
is euphemism: bodyguard,
escort, watchdog, personal
police, lackey, hit man.
means blood feud,
running through the years
from clan to clan.
A clan can recruit
CVOs as young as 10.
Poverty and debt:
cheap fuel for power.
You pick up a chainsaw.
You pick up a gun.
You kill someone.
The deed or debt
is un/done.
In Masalya, Datu Abdullah Sangki town.
In Maguindanao.
In the heartland of the sultanate
on a remote stretch of highway.
The locals say
once the sun sets
the roads are empty.
Six cars in a caravan.
Among the 58 victims,
22 women, 30 journalists.
3 dismembered and mutilated.
The raped had their genitals
shot at close range.
Here are names
of reporters who perished
(this is not a complete list) —
Marites, Lea, Gina, Hannibal,
Eugene, Jhoy, Lindo.

Some of them worked
for Mindanao Inquirer or
Gold Star Daily Radio.
A backhoe operator
named Bong described the machine’s
iron hand — bakal na kamay —
and how it was used
to bury the dead.
Five years since
and no convictions.
Eight witnesses
have since been killed.
They spoke of more
than a hundred gunmen
in the ambush.
Reports described
how the masterminds’ faces
emblazoned election posters
plastered around town.
Think of a body
in pieces after a chainsaw
has done its work.

**On the Ampatuan Massacre:

Photo by John Henry Doucette

Photo by John Henry Doucette

Luisa A. Igloria is the author of the eChapbook Bright Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press, spring 2015); Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow: Prose Poems (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (2013), Juan Luna's Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005), and eight other books. Luisa has degrees from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was a Fulbright Fellow from 1992-1995. She currently teaches in and directs the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. For more than four years, since November 20, 2010, Luisa has been writing (at least) a poem a day; these poems are archived on Dave Bonta's Via Negativa website.