Papa Osmubal’s “At Hac Sa Beach, Macau” [Read the poem here] (First published in issue #4 of Cha)
In the first line of the poem, the persona says, ‘The moon is a wide-eyed owl’. I picture this eye to be similar to Cheshire Cat’s disembodied grinning mouth: it lingers when the face has completely vanished. If the moon is the wide-eye of an owl, then the sun must be its closed eye. This giant owl is winking at us from above; its wink suspended for the duration of the night. A transient moment magically prolonged. This owl, the replacement of God, is omnipresent: it eavesdrops (L2), it gazes (L3). Such is the night world of Macau’s Hac Sa Beach portrayed in Osmubal’s poem.
Under the gazing eye of the ‘wide-eyed owl’, the people in the poem are comfortable enough to strip themselves bare. Their nakedness enables them to ‘reliv[e] our days in the womb / where the world is all water, wind and fire’ (L3-L5). Not only does the moon undergo metamorphosis in this beach world, people’s shadows, too, transform: ‘Our shadows are amphibians’ (L6) – my favourite line in the poem. Equally adaptable on land and in water, the shadows ‘thriv[e] among sands, pebbles, and waves’ (L7). And slowly we realise that the whole night is changing; it is becoming more and more like the womb world, which is ‘all water, wind and fire’. The persona says, ‘The night is warm like blood and breath. / Our silence reverberates in the wind’ (L8-L9). Blood is thickened water; wind echoes wind; warm breath is gentle fire.
If returning to the moment of birth is not far enough to reach for one’s origin, the persona compares him and his companion to Adam and Eve, ancestors of all. He playfully makes reference to ‘Eden’s total mystery’ (L10): ‘am I broken from your ribs / or are you broken from mine?’ (L11-12) However, the question is only asked to be immediately dismissed: the persona freely admits his ignorance in science and theology (L13). He also thinks himself unfit to explain ‘why our whispers have wings and songs’ (L14).
Like the persona, the reader is guided to defy logic — don’t you want to enter this night and this enchanted beach? Being gazed upon by an owl eye, you can test your shadows to see if they turn into amphibians, and then whisper — words grow wings and sing.
Papa Osmubal writes from Macau. His works, visual and literary, appear in numerous places, online and hardcopy, most recently in Bulatlat and Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k). He writes regularly for eK! (electroniKabalen / electroniKapampangan / electroniK…). He is currently working on a collection of modernist papercuts for his planned solo exhibition tentatively called ‘Nocturnal Voice’.