‘Sanayan Lang ang Pagpatay’ by Albert Alejo, SJ, a translation to English

(He’s in hot water these days over his alleged involvement in a bribery case, but Fr Alejo is a good poet, and this was one of the first good poems I read as a college student in Ateneo de Davao)

Killing is Just a Matter of Getting Used To
translation by Karlo Antonio Galay David

(For the sector of society which kills people)

Killing someone? It’s all just about getting used to it, man.
Like with a lizard. Of course at first
you’ll flinch. You won’t stomach
slingshoting or hitting it like some cockroach or mosquito
because it seems like it’s always on top
of some saint’s forehead on an altar,
and a voice is always there telling you
No no no, killing is bad.
But like so many things
Killing is something you learn if you work hard at it,
if you listen to those with more experience.
I learned from my uncle how to strike with a slipper
or hit with a garter the lizards on our ceiling,
and when they fall on the floor twitching
you pin them down so they don’t run away
while you focus your weight slowly
on one tiptoed foot: then suddenly you bring it down. This is good training
because you don’t see it, you just hear the crunching
of the skull of that goddamn lizard who won’t be ticking from now on.
(if you think about it, they’re quite the villain to moths themselves)
Before long my hands grew more creative
with gouging out their eyes,
cutting off their feet with blades, crushing the eggs inside them
until they writhe as if on top of burning coal.
Or during Christmas, when there are a lot of fireworks
I carefully stuff a firecracker inside their mouths
so when they explode the snout says goodbye to the tail.
(I still don’t understand though
why they just continue to grow plenty)

That’s why sometimes killing can get rather dull.
Fortunately, doors and windows have a way
of surprising you, letting you unwittingly take lives.
Really, that’s all there is to killing:
If not me, someone else will strike;
if not now, maybe some other time.

But what really lets me do this
is our deep and lasting bond:
while I am here killing, all of you just watch.

Sanayan Lang Ang Pagpatay
ni Albert Alejo, SJ
(Para sa sektor nating pumapatay ng tao)

Pagpatay ng tao? Sanayan lang ‘yan pare.
Parang sa butiki. Sa una siyempre
Ikaw’y nangingimi. Hindi mo masikmurang
Tiradurin o hampasing tulad ng ipis o lamok
Pagkat para bang lagi ‘yang nakadapo
Sa noo ng santo sa altar
At tila may tinig na nagsasabing
Bawal     bawal      bawal ‘yang pumatay.
Subalit tulad lang ng maraming bagay
Ang pagpatay ay natututuhan din kung magtitiyaga
Kang makinig sa may higit na karanasan.
Nakuha ko sa tiyuhin ko kung paanong balibagin ng tsinelas
O pilantikin ng lampin ang nakatitig na butiki sa aming kisame
At kapag nalaglag na’t nagkikikisay sa sahig
Ay agad ipitin nang hindi makapuslit
Habang dahan-dahang tinitipon ang buong bigat
Sa isang paang nakatingkayad: sabay bagsak.Magandang pagsasanay ito sapagkat
Hindi mo nakikita, naririnig lamang na lumalangutngot
Ang buo’t bungo ng lintik na butiking hindi na makahalutiktik.
(kung sa bagay, kilabot din ‘yan sa mga gamu-gamo.)
Nang magtagal-tagal ay naging malikhain na rin
Ang aking mga kamay sa pagdukit ng mata,
Pagbleyd ng paa, pagpisa ng itlog sa loob ng tiyan
Hanggang mamilipit ‘yang parang nasa ibabaw ng baga.
O kung panahon ng Pasko’t maraming paputok
Maingat kong sinusubuan ‘yan ng rebentador
Upang sa pagsabog ay magpaalaman ang nguso at buntot.
(Ang hindi ko lamang maintindihan ay kung bakit
Patuloy pa rin ‘yang nadaragdagan.)

Kaya’t ang pagpatay ay nakasasawa rin kung minsan.
Mabuti na lamang at nakaluluwag ng loob
Ang pinto at bintanang kahit hindi mo sinasadya
At may paraan ng pagpuksa ng buhay.
Ganyang lang talaga ang pagpatay:
Kung hindi ako ay iba naman ang babanat;
Kung hindi ngayon ay sa iba namang oras.
Subalit ang higit na nagbibigay sa akin ng lakas ng loob
Ay ang malalim nating pagsasamahan:
Habang ako’y pumapatay, kayo nama’y nanonood.

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