A cup of fine tea: Papa Osmubal’s “At Hac Sa Beach, Macau”

Papa Osmubal’s “At Hac Sa Beach, Macau”  [Read the poem here] (First published in issue #4 of Cha)

– This post is written by Tammy Ho.

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’.

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9 Responses to “A cup of fine tea: Papa Osmubal’s “At Hac Sa Beach, Macau””

  1. Bob Bradshaw Says:

    What I like is how the poem consistently focuses us on our own mystery of existence, and how we came to be. It doesn’t slip off track from its message.

    The moon watches us “reliving our days in the womb / where the world is all water, wind and fire.” The tie-in to ‘water, wind and fire’ reverberates through the poem with its references to our shadows as amphibians, which echoes back to the womb again since in the early stages of our womb we reflect our amphibian heritage with our ‘gills’ and amphibian-like tail.

    The environment we live in reflects us, and our evolution, again echoing the ‘water, wind, fire’ of the womb….”The night is warm like blood and breath.”

    “We are a testament to Eden’s total mystery”, the poet says. We shall never understand fully our mystery of existence, and how we got here. Playfully, he asks

    am I broken from your ribs
    or are you broken from mine?

    mocking his ability(and ours) to understand such mysteries.

    We will never truly understand ourselves…as the poem says,

    I know of no science nor theology
    to tell why our whispers have wings and songs.

    It’s such a strong poem on a difficult subject…well done! Bob

  2. t Says:

    I like your analysis, Bob. I have previously neglected the elements of mysteries in the poem — thank you for pointing them out. And yes, in the womb we are all amphibian-like.

  3. Papa Osmubal Says:

    Tammy and friends, I just wish I had the eye and ear that you have, so I could also see and hear, and therefore say, everything that you see in, hear from and say about my work. Ah, the misery of a poet!

  4. Shadowy figure Says:

    I guess everyone can have their own interpretation. I found the poem to be not about the mystery of our origins, but our ability to mythologize it.

  5. Bob Bradshaw Says:

    Shadowy Figure, I think you could make a good case for your interpretation. I like your thoughts….best, Bob

  6. Shadowy figure Says:

    Thanks, but it was hardly more than my reading of the last few lines than an elaborate analysis of the poem’s intricasies. I’ll gladly leave that to the experts.

  7. Lee Sloca Says:

    At Hac Sa Beach, Macau:
    Has Macau been so colonized that its own myth has been so completely taken over by Euro-Christian history that all we can do is to regurgitate the same bulls and spit it back like a good little dog? We are writers and we can re/invent our own creations? Nice images but who are they for? And to perpetuate whom?

  8. t Says:

    I am not quite sure which images in the poem you are objecting to. To answer one of your questions: I believe the images are for readers who enjoy the poem, although it seems rather obvious that they do not inspire you. And needless to say, I would guess the images are for the poet himself as well.

  9. Lee Sloca Says:

    t :
    I am not quite sure which images in the poem you are objecting to. To answer one of your questions: I believe the images are for readers who enjoy the poem, although it seems rather obvious that they do not inspire you. And needless to say, I would guess the images are for the poet himself as well.

    I objected to all the images in the “At Hac Sa Beach, Macau” poem. In the sense that they are all Euro-Christian images. If the title were, “Santa Monica, CA” it would still apply. There is nothing in the poem that screams of Macau, the South China Sea.

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