The Breath of Sparrows
The day Mandela died,
I dreamt I was in the house
of my mentor, as a frequent guest
who took a desk by the window.
A towering tree with red
and yellow flowers as big as hands,
the breeze slipping between each
petal finger. I went to his room
to ask the name of that tree.
He lay on his bed, resting
with eyes closed but aware
of the birds weighing down
the branches, leaves caressing
the roof. The breath of sparrows
like his own. There was no need to name
the tree, no need to name anything
at all at that moment. I bid him thanks
before leaving, my footsteps drowning
in sparrow wings.
from Wings of Smoke, The Onslaught Press, 2017
Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates in Filipino and English. He grew up in Manila, the Philippines, during the reign of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, and moved to South Africa in 1994.
His poetry has appeared in Rhino, World Literature Today and Modern Poetry in Translation, among others. His poem, “To be an Orc,” won the NoiseMedium Grand Prize, and his own translation of his poem from the Filipino, “Danica Mae,” won the Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation and Multilingual Texts from Lunch Ticket and Antioch University. In South Africa, he has won the DALRO Award for Poetry second prize as well as the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award 3rd Prize in 2014 and 2015.
At the age of 23, his ﬁrst book, Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil Publishing, Manila 1992), was published, followed bySalimbayan (Publikasyong Sipat, Manila 1994). Subsequent poetry collections were released by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House: in 2011, Baha-bahagdang Karupukan (shortlisted for the National Book Award) and Alien to Any Skin; in 2013, Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran and Sound Before Water; and, in 2015, A Thousand Eyes. In 2016, the same publisher released his ﬁrst short story collection in Filipino, Sanga sa Basang Lupa.
Agustin’s latest collection of poetry, Wings of Smoke, was recently released by The Onslaught Press (Oxford 2017). He is currently working on a new collection that contains work criticizing the bloody war on drugs by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and commenting on socio-political events in his South Africa.
Drafts, literary news and random thoughts of his are posted on www.matangmanok.wordpress.com.
Link to ordering Wings of Smoke: http://onslaughtpress.com/