Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mt. Mayon by Simeon Dumdum Jr.


(In which I got the chance to see it again . . . in someone else's eyes.)

***

Mt. Mayon
(From the airport in Legaspi City)

Simeon Dumdum Jr.

As to this jacketed, hunting-capped
And skippered man following me as though
Afraid I might ogle his daughter,
Perhaps he is really just a tricycle driver
Stalking a fare, but beast enough to stand
Wide-eyed, watching this mountain too
As it goes déshabillé, while the wind
Shoos away the clouds of sheep until
nothing remains
But a lamb sucking the blue nipple.

***

At first read, or even at the second or third, a reader will simply find a scenario typical of provincial mountainside life in Simeon Dumdum Jr.'s Mt. Mayon. It is just a fleeting moment, a scene captured through the lens of a camera and could even be an abstract emotional memories of one's first visit to a province. But the structural brevity and simplicity of the poem actually exude beauty and love for it.

I have been to Bicol only once and was granted a visit to a mountain where we got a better look at Mt. Mayon. Some of the memories I had from that trip include children running barefoot after our vehicle while shouting greetings of welcome, and old men and women smiling toothlessly at the sight of local tourists. It was so heartwarming, light and human. Yet those adjectives always fell short of full description. So when I read how Dumdum described the man he encountered at the airport, I was amazed both by the simplicity and the weight of words he used.
As to this jacketed, hunting-capped
And skippered man following me as though
Afraid I might ogle his daughter,
Perhaps he is really just a tricycle driver
Stalking a fare . . .
And then the sight of the mountain. It had been a long time since it was branded for it conical perfection. But I dare say that at time, I, the amateur self-proclaimed connoisseur of beauty that I am, saw no apparent disgrace to its name, based on postcards from which my judgment emanated. It was no wonder why the man was,
. . . but beast enough to stand
Wide-eyed, watching this mountain too . . .
It was just a moment, a fleeting moment when wind and mist of evaporated water waltzed to uncover a beauty capable of putting other beauties to shame. The excitement one experiences while watching the mountain come into clearer view is akin to the expectation of a gallery spectator for a celebrated masterpiece to be unveiled. As the clouds, which Dumdum referred to as "clouds of sheep", moved away, what remains is the perfect mound of earth, déshabillé. At the peak of it was "a lamb sucking the blue nipple", the tip of the cone kissing the blue sky.
As it goes déshabillé, while the wind
Shoos away the clouds of sheep until
nothing remains
But a lamb sucking the blue nipple.
Poetry, in its purest and most perfect state, is a reproduction of ephemeral beauty with the hope of making it last for posterity. In Mt. Mayon, Simeon Dumdum Jr.'s artistic play of words was a gift to people who love nature as well as verses. It could even be a call, a reminder for people to look around and marvel at how wonderful the world is, and perhaps ruminate on the fact that serenity could be sometimes found in a glance at a beautiful mound of earth.