Ayn Frances dela Cruz
Beating the Drums
In an old house, a young man. In his hands, rough skin beating beneath his palm. The drums sit on the outskirts of the house.
When it rains, the drums sound like a thousand fingers beating on hide. The sweet tinkle of bells, going round the house.
It wakes the man. Thinking it was the voice of somebody he goes out only to find himself in the rain.
In the rain, the man slips, only to find himself entangled in his hair.
He dreams of hair getting wet in the rain. Myriad teardrops soaking it. Again he is entangled, by dreams, by his hair, by the tears that mar the rain. How salty it is. How pure, if only he could drink this forever.
He searches for warmth in this wetness. Covering himself, he makes a move to cut his hair. If only the blanket could stretch to eternity, then he could be a giant drum, being beaten by a million feet, and his sound could stretch eternity awake.
The rain beats tattoos on his skin. The word rain is being etched on his body. The drums are a world apart. As he struggles to keep his eye open, he hears the drums sighing. Tiny fingers are drumming them.
He longs to be a part of the great beat that keeps the drums constantly beating in his head, in his heart. His heart drums, his body thrums to the rhythm. Skin to skin he and the drums become one, Echo by echo every movement drums.
Today, the drums beat as sadly as before. Today, his heart is a drum.
La belle et bete variations
The matte fur that criscrossed his body. The obelisk that surrounds. And we are handsome as hate, as skin burns. Claws that sheath sharp hearts. And mouths that frame forked tongues. In man and animals, skin flowers. And covers. Is it the wolf in sheep's clothing? Is it the sheep in wolf's clothing?
The beast that for hours and hours stares at nothing but the rose. And the rose drops petals. And drops and drops, disrobing. One, two, three. Petals shower, scatter. On the framed disk of night, things run and run. The running takes their breath. All but one petal remains. And for the beast, all but one breath remains.
The halted fervor of pain. Beauty that dazzles, hurting the eyes. The corneas burning with fluid. And the eyelashes catching drops. Beauty sees beast. And in the quietness of looking knows what it is to be caught by a thief. Silence catches like no sound ever can. The eyes follow the abyss. And down and down into foreverness.
Silence holds like seashells trapping all the sounds of the sea. And everything quiet and everything felt.
One never starts a legend with an ugly woman. So Beauty became beautiful over the years. The legends forgot that her nickname was actually an irony. A kind of hope, a kind of wish, a lot of sarcasm.
It doesn't help that she's strange too. Wanting to stare at stars for hours and hours. Looking at books, dreaming of legends. Her father kept her close, terrifying her with stories of monsters, and things that grab and devour, not telling her that what she should watch out for are things that mock and hurt.
Everything happened as in the actual story. Father went bankrupt. Sold his daughter for a rose. In return, the Beast threw in gold and silver aplenty. Father was delighted. He didn't expect a dowry like this from Beauty.
And Beauty was intrigued. The beast can't be more terrifying than me. She thought.
She never saw the beast. Only herself and herself. Because the walls of the castle are glass. Glass on glass. Everything a mirror. (So, the nightmares wake us into nightmares). And in her days of boredom, finally, she began to see herself.
What is more terrifying than oneself embraced by all this skin? And all the dreams, and all the wishes strangled over the years. To be pure? What does that mean? To slough away layers and leave skin behind. And then the lungs. And then the heart.
There is no escape from mirrors, and to look and look is all we ever do. In her heart, beauty knew she is the beast.
The glass shattered. Walls on walls of the castle broken down. Beauty covered her eyes.
He woke from inside the beast when the castle came tumbling down. he saw through the beast's eyes and realized they were not separate. He lifted his hands and saw the long, elegant shape, and not the paws he had been used to.
He threw off his fur, and stood up. Everything was filmy, as if seen through star dust.
But the girl was there. There surrounded by bits of glass, and broken partitions. He wondered who she was. A savior? An avenging angel?
He touched her hair. She looked up, blind. The ground glass had entered her eyes, and she could not now see anything. "Are you the beast" she asked.
"Yes", he said. And she reached out to touch his face.
"I knew you'd be beautiful", she said.
IV. Rose Nocturne
It opens not to
Light, but to muteness.
It stands in
Terribly on stakes.
The rose flowers
With a heaviness
To swallow the blossoms
And scatter the remains
, 28, is the founding editor of Paper Monster Press
. Formerly the Assistant Artistic Director of Galleria Duemila she now freelances as a publishing consultant. Her works have been published in My Favorite Bullet
, Under the Storm: an Anthology of Philippine Contemporary Poetry
, and LITA: Poems on Women