Skip to content
Words Without Borders "stands as a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility." — 2018 Whiting Literary Magazine Prize Citation
from the November 2019 issue

Birds of Paradise, 1965

Birds of Paradise, 1965

In this poem by Enrique Villasis, faith and desire take the shape of a flock of birds.


Here is how one is seared by unspoken desire: holy and yellow,
Like this scene of a setting sun always ready to melt
Over our eyes and chests, and the departing light bringing with it an ache
Beneath our lashes. We are often taught to have our eyes closed, to ignore the weight

Of our eyelids, to let loose in throbbing want: this is the beginning of every prayer.
In the mind, a flock of birds, feathers from an unshakable, shadowy thing,
As if responding: what is the shape of god. We are sustained by faith because
The dark’s eyes are upon us. Example: the nimbus, the cold it brings.

So we search for known hands. Or some familiar flapping. In the dark,
A heightened feeling: the burning of palms intertwined, the rustling
Of down hoisted up to the wind toward the murky depths of gravity. From
Opening one’s eyes, what happens: the dawn a cluster

Of rhythmic wings rises, aiming for distant stars, carrying
The afternoon heat. Brightness dissolves their number and shadow like a comma
In a broken sentence of approaching stars. We will be left sleeping among
The echoes of their wild singing, clutching our every wish.


© Enrique Villasis. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Bernard Capinpin. All rights reserved.

Birds of Paradise, 1965

Ganito ang pagkapaso sa mga hindi maipahayag na pagnanasa: banal at dilaw,
Katulad nitong tanawin ng papalubog na araw na laging handing tumunaw
Sa ating paningin at dibdib, at may hatid na hapdi ang napapaalam na liwanag
Sa ilalim ng pilik Madalas natuturo tayong manatiling nakapikit, hayaan ang bigat

Ng talukap, magpatangay sa pinipintig na hiling ito ang simula ng bawat panalangin.
Sa isip, ang kawa ng mga ibon, mga bagwis ng hindi matinag na likhang kulimlim,
Tila may sinasagot: ano ba ang hubog ng diyos. Nabubuhay tayo sa pananalig sapagkat
Nakamasid sa atin ang dilim. Halimbawa: ang dagim, ang dala nitong lamig.

Kaya naghahanap tayo ng mga kilalang kamay. O ang mga pamilyar na pagaspas. Sa dilim,
Ang paghigit sa pandama: ang paglagablab ng nakalingkis na palad, ang kaluskos ng mga
Bumabangkang balahibo sa hangin padaong sa maalkitrang pag-iral ng grabedad. Sa
Pagkakadilat, ang nagaganap: umaahon ang kumpol-liwayway

Ng mga umiindayog na pakpak, tinutudla ang mga estrangherong estrelya, bitbit
Ang mahapong init. Limulusaw ng silaw ang kanilang dami’t anino tila mga kuwit
Sa putol-putol na pangungusap ng pagdatal ng mga tala. Maiiwan tayog nahihimbing sa
Alingawngaw ng ilahas nilang pag-awit, dagit-dagit ang lahat ng ating hinihinling.

Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.