The Flooding That Writes Itself

Mudslides brought about by weeks of heavy rains almost buried the village of Guinsaugon in Southern Leyte, Philippines. Gov. Rosette Lerias said most of those feared dead were school children who were attending classes at the Guisajogon elementary school when the landslide occurred.

“It sounded like the mountain exploded and the whole thing crumbled,” a survivor said.

—news accounts from BBC News, Manila Standard, Malaya, Philippine Inquirer and New York Times, February 17-20, 2006

I could not teach
what they refused
to hear.

It is so dark
and damp
and cold.

I wanted to teach
how mountains explode
like people—
that abuse takes
many forms.

How long will this air last?

I can barely see the light
from my mobile phone—
did someone hear
my words text-ed out
about the growing dimness here?

“Ma’am, we are still under
the school. Please help us,
Ma’am. This is Edilio
Coquilla. Please Ma’am.”

The children have not even
began first grade.

I hear their fingers scratching
sounds like restless “insects
or running water”—will
the rescuers be fooled?
Are there rescuers
above this collapsed earth?

I could not teach
the deaf to listen.
No, not lessons about
the environment—how trees
protect land from sliding
down into faraway seas.

I could not teach the guardians
who loved to call themselves
“guardians” of the future:
children now inhaling mud
to become mud.

I could not teach
politicians to cease corruption—
to grow environments where
mountains can exist
despite the hunger of
human denizens.

I could not teach how
Hunger becomes a disease
when we feed ourselves
with our children.

This lesson is not about mountains
losing their trees
so people can eat.
The lesson is about a poet
writing a poem
on a desk carved
from an “endangered species”
smuggled out into a land
replete with snow
through bribes
to a mayor, a general,
a dock inspector
a paper-pushing “facilitator”
and his administrative assistant.

And how I shall be thirsty
for the rest of my life
no matter how much water
I drink and drink
trying to release the taste
of mud spewed out
in Guinsaugon, Leyte, Philippines
on February 17, 2006.

“The Flooding That Writes Itself” was first published in
International Feminist Journal of Politics, 9:4 December 2007 (Taylor & Francis Group, Routledge, U.K.)



I am also to blame for the BP oil disaster. I am part of the demand for oil. I do try to limit my footprint on the natural environment, in energy and other matters. For the former, say, a solar field; for the latter, say, hosting bee hives to help mitigate “colony collapse disorder” which also is a way to introduce my son to environmental concerns. But regardless of these steps, I do not wish to avoid acknowledging that I am part of the cause for the tragedy in the Gulf and many other environmental damages—to recognize blame’s expanse is a condition precedent for being part of any solution. As Acoma Pueblo poet Simon J. Ortiz has noted, there is a “moral imperative” to the making of interconnections that require, among other things, pro-active awareness including self-awareness—a stance also inherent in the Filipino indigenous trait of “kapwa” and what I call “Babaylan Poetics.” Ergo, for the BP oil disaster: I am very sorry—I will try to do better.


Eileen R. Tabios just released her 18th poetry collection, THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New 1998-2010 (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2010). In 2011, she will release SILK EGGS: Collected Novels 2009-2009 (Shearsman Books, Exeter, U.K.). Her family has began keeping bee hives to help alleviate “colony collapse disorder,” a term for disappearing honey bee colonies in North America.

One thought on “THE FLOODING THAT WRITES ITSELF by Eileen R. Tabios

  1. Eileen Tabios writes clean and sufficient prose for a messy and insufficient world full of daily horrors that
    can be avoided as Ortiz states, by proacitve awareness. And I too find myself guilty of not caring sufficiently
    enough to actively participate in the caring and perserving of our land. This will change.

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