Mark Anthony Cayanan

Essays on transformation




You wade through flood to get from one end of the city to your apartment, detritus floating around your thighs. Once the power’s restored, you watch the news for an updated death toll and, as a tourist understands kinship, in earnest you consume replicable griefs.





From soot-covered cities making unsacred noises when against one another bang minor gods and sweaty bears and turnstiles and sodomy, the fable: rat, quick caught in glue, flypaper.





In this transformation-facsimile, the hero hasn’t sweated the dye off his imperial and invisible bits of death don’t quite yet hang in the sultry air.





In your despair, a respectable amount of preening. The overnight bus makes a stop at that forgettable town where foreign miners worked a mountain until its face collapsed, trees piled up in a ravine. For the preening in your despair, despair.





Beware of bone-tiredness when it leads to decision-making. Even if the sky were a sullied blue and made of wool, enjoy some light beer. Nobody lives anew.





If the neighbours nod toward the house of the men who put a grocery bag over his head and dragged him away, his body found the next morning in a vacant lot, Jesus, retreat back into distraction.





Given the universal truth that it’s better to be thought of as nasty and therefore alone than alone because ugly, you make a small show of peeing in the community pool. Given that the only place in which ideas about the world are as horrible as their fruition is the world, swinging between sin and sinner, the resentment you redirect toward those unburdened with guilt endures and nourishes.





If awe and death don’t work, the general says, then maybe declaring the war’s been won would. Where justice is a long con, there’s collective fervour. Yours makes the racket of smaller wings.





When they live in each other for an hour, the poet says, their reasons unpublic, they have a park for that. No society doesn’t regulate it. Here where there are too many malls and no parks, the third-floor toilet will do, the specific rows of a movie house, if done often enough it’s only as dishonourable as picking your nose, late night and careless in the back of a bus.





If given a choice between postponing your kind’s anger because there are revolutions more important and freestyling to your hunger as around you everything’s at 900º, here’s another bucket.


That’s no symbol, that’s a fucking stretch mark. Whose call would you trust, no tyranny more democratic than detachment.





Because you suspect it’s cowardice, it’s cowardice.


Is there more to your cowardice. This wreath of impatiens, yours. No.





Or, having in your childhood suffocated under the weight of being shamed, you had killed the way you gestured with your hands, killed the way you thought, in the bathroom you rehearsed your voice until it bounced off the tiles in the expected manner, you thought but thought in secret, killed it, how expertly you could pick up a stone. You join the throng, from it emerges the solidarity your desires had once deprived you of, and throw the stone.





If all the casual katabatic trips haven’t made a man out of you, then be another man.


MARK ANTHONY CAYANAN is from Angeles City, Philippines. They obtained an MFA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and are a PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide. Their third poetry book, Unanimal, Counterfeit, Scurrilous, was published by Giramondo Publishing in April 2021. New work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwest Quarterly, Rabbit, The Night Heron Barks, Electric Literature’s The Commuter, and Lana Turner. They teach at the Ateneo de Manila University.