Jesus “Jeques” B. Jamora
My love for poetry traces back to my childhood, When I vaguely understood what I was chanting. I started reciting poems before I learned to read or write. Memorization came not from reading, but from listening; not from understanding the words or the message of the verse with the mind, but with the heart. It was primarily the sound of its rhythmical composition, more than anything, which lured me to it. Grasping the metaphors and absorbing the meaning concealed between the lines came much later. It captured my heart before it conquered my mind. This is probably the reason for my enduring love affair with poetry.
As a tyke, I liked listening to the rhythmic tone of my high-pitched voice as I would parrot poems – joining and winning contests – before I entered school. What sounds good to the ears of a child feels good to the heart:
“…The shepherd came to worship; the tiny baby smiled.
It is an old, old story; old yet forever new.
Watch for the little star tonight;
It will shine for me and you.”
And just like most of the singers learning their first song, I, too, learned my first poem by listening.
Poetry for me then, as it is still to me now, like love, needs no extra ordinary thoughts to touch the heart. Purity speaks the truth. I can now tell when a poem was written using blood-stained ink from the heart:
“Don’t forget me; make a shrine to hold me
Safe and warm within your faithful heart;
Weave a web of happy thoughts to fold me
In all remembrance, when we part…”
Now, if it was not the heart of Rafael Dimayuga that wrote this lines, what could it possibly be? Those lovely words were finely twined, undoubtedly, by love. Reading this poem leads me to the re-discovery of a treasure box I feared to open for a very long time. It was the key that re-opened something in me that I locked from the inside. It unleashed the dormant would-be poet in me, an inclination I lost with my first taste of rejection, when I was expelled from seminary at the age of thirteen. I have outgrown the trauma, but the scar remains – God knows it still hurts. The seminary produced many success stories of priests; mine was a sad story of defeat. My english teacher, a priest, dropped me from a poetry recital contest in favor of his pet student(it is a long story, I’ll write about that in a separate post). I felt bad, so did some of my classmates who thought I was more deserving. I lost interest in everything after that incident, my vocation included. By the end of the school year, I was kicked out.
Something in me died. It was my lowest point that inchoate my long detachment from anything poetic. There were times when I felt it resurfaced for some brief moments, whenever something or someone whisks my heart with gentle strokes or reckless blows. My lack of the resources of language to speak my mind and the fear of confronting my too sensitive feelings quelled it even more. I was unaware, though, that I channeled my creativity into other mediums: There’s poetry in my sketches and paintings, and my bonsai in the garden. I now understand.
Love and rejection, indeed, gets in the same route into, and out of our hearts. Rejection locked my heart once, and it was love that reopened it years later. It started with meager and petty journal entries:
“… i thought we have it, but somewhere along the way we lost it. Shall we ever regain it, perhaps at least i still hope, in the end?”
Then it progressed into short vignettes;
“I am forever tracing in my mind
The creases in your palms,
When you pressed it close to mine ~
Your last strong grip,
Our last hand shake ~
Then we bade goodbye.”
Moving further, I progressed and tried free verse:
“At night, I light a lamp
So even in the long dark hours
The little spark of my thoughts of you
Could light the moment
As I read my life’s pages back
To the times
When you were still with me.”
I heard that strangely familiar voice of the child again. And there he was, just like the last time I heard him. Albeit mellowed, and unlike before, he now demands to deliver not somebody else’s thoughts but his own. So I listned. Listning I did in the placidity of early mornings, when silence utters messages that we can understand if we listen with an open mind and a quiet heart:
“If you need a quiet place,
A perfect haven to rest;
Come let me be,
You can lie on my chest.
There you will hear a single sound,
A love song at its best;
‘Tis there that you will hear,
The whisper of my heartbeats.
Hey, stay with me
And let me be
Your quiet place to rest.
I wrote this poem, “A Quiet Place To Rest,” just about the same time I was rediscovering my love for poetry. I wrote this then for someone who I eventually lost. But reading it, I know now that this poem is actually for me. And that is how we reconciled, and began our journey together again.
It was hard to believe and convince myself initially that I could write and I am a poet. But we all are. For every literate person, according to David Kirby, has it in himself to be a good poet. The good news is each of us is a poet already, or at least used to be, it’s just that most of us have gone into early retirement. It is relaxing – like a balm to the heart – to read and write poetry. I read poems to find more of its secrets and to be reminded that poems can be written. Books of poetry gives me a simple surprise that more poems are there and that the magic is available. One poet said that most of us are poets on-call because poetry only comes when it wants to. So we should always make ourselves available. E.E. Cummings also said that “a poet is only a poet during a few hours of his lifetime. The rest of the time he is a would-be poet.” So here I am reconciled with my first love. Our years apart makes a good plot for my works. I promised my self not to let go of poetry again.
I do not know where my life’s journey with poetry is going to take me. I always have this incessant vision of me in my mind: standing in the bank of a river, I watch the waters flow, and wonder where the river came, and where life goes. I can only look as far as my eyes can see and my heart can imagine.
My winning article as it appeared in The Philippine Star, October 2004. Please click picture to read the story of my first publication: