Jim Pascual Agustin

You may have a Face but No Name

There’s a photo embedded
in my mind, got it in an email,
subject: SPONGEBOB
spotted in Hillbrow.

Someone in Johannesburg had taken a shot
of a street kid sleeping in a rolled up
foam mattress, his dark and skinny legs
sticking out one end.

This image comes to mind now
as I stare at my monitor, at your photo
on the internet, nameless Romanian
boy in the shadows of Rome.

It’s that bed of yours
with a roof of stars or rain
or flood of sunlight
that disturbs me.

It isn’t blood or proximity that turns
you and SpongeBob into brothers,
but that bed.
That fucking bed.

from Sound Before Water (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2013)

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/product/wings-of-smoke/