Eric F. Tinsay Valles
Eric F. Tinsay Valles draws inspiration from all the places that he has called home. He has authored the poetry collections A World in Transit and After the Fall: dirges among ruins. A former journalist, he has co-edited Get Lucky: An Anthology of Singapore and Philippine Writings, Sg Poems 2015-2016, Atelier of Healing, Anima Methodi, and The Nature of Poetry. Recipient of the Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing prize and British Council Writing the City prize, Eric has been awarded the Vermont Studio Center Residency, Centrum Artist Residency, and Wellspring House Residency. He has been invited to read poetry or commentaries at Baylor, Melbourne and Oxford Universities as well as the Kistrech Poetry Festival. His poetry has been featured in Southeast Asian Review of English, Routledge’s New Writing, and other journals. With a BS in Business Management from Ateneo de Manila University and an MA in English from the University of the Philippines, Eric received his PhD in English, with a specialisation in Creative Writing, from Nanyang Technological University. His dissertation focussed on mediating trauma through short and long poetic forms. Eric is a director of Poetry Festival (Singapore).
A Hymn for the Ages
May we spring up like grass in a field.
May the rain cleanse and make the soil fertile
where once blood was wantonly spilled.
May we face beasts by the river
and remain upright like the hibiscus;
the martyred good shepherd, Fr. Imbert,
throngs of Chinese coolies who confessed your name
in Kranji plantations as their houses burned.
May you heal our cankers and sores.
May we unlock the gate of hope
for schoolchildren and orphans of all colors.
May we shelter migrants in peace or war
and shine a light like candles at mass
as we did for priests fleeing communist China
or as that sweet nun singing a hymn in Changi
while placing rosary beads in the hanged inmate’s hands.
Visiting Scholars at Christmas
Jerusalem and officials were agog
over a question, repeated like a chant,
“Where is the newborn king?”
What brazenness for stargazers,
ragged and foreign, to soil a palace,
foul the air with talk of uprising.
Priest-poets of old
sang of a child king in a hammock
among smokestacks in a suburb
that winter would empty of turtledoves.
The official, a wolf staking its grounds,
bade the visitors to comb streets,
send word of that child’s nest.
The planets twirled like dervishes,
Leonids sputtered above a feeding trough.
The scholars were in awe at the stars and life.
The child, a branch of David, won the battle
tucked beside their gold and spices.
Those foreign men assumed a lead role
in averting tragedy in the Christmas drama
not with arms but empirical science,
zeal for the good tested in the crucible
of the God child nursed by a mother among hay,
pure intimacy proven irresistible.
Restoring a Mural in Changi Chapel
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Under layers of paint,
like tar pits of memory,
the wearied arms and legs
of five half-naked POWs—
crouching in outline.
They are the dead we mourn—
who are raising Christ,
alive and golden on the cross
in the mid-afternoon sun,
as if mercy sprouts a leaf
breaking out of an ice floe,
as if hope could summon
from deep marble slumber,
out of a plastered tomb wall
as a British bombardier
fights invisible monsters,
of raising blistered hands,
bony after three years of want,
of making brush bristles from hair
and mixing paint with crushed chalk.
The prisoner mixes linseed oil
with salty sweat for body and gloss;
his figures’ eyes are closed to defeat,
their spirit breaking at last the bonds of war.
A white American bewailed lockdown privation;
I recalled the cross planted on conquered lands;
A Singaporean saw verse as grace abounding in books;
A native American sewed Job’s sorrows into quilt bands;
An Episcopalian lady disavowed atelophobia in prayer;
A Canadian, awed by a missionary aunt, praised the Maker of all things new;
All joined with audio on Zoom controls, video appeared in layers;
Despite shaky wifi, we reached out like the blind with faith in view.
Some reunited with friends whose works stood on their shelf;
all bound to a community worshipping the Lamb in the ether,
a foretaste of heaven where there is no writers’ block,
where we work and read, sufficiently distanced, together;
eyes on the here and now, where grace meets us unmasked
as we stay true to our calling to write about abiding love
though years have passed since our lips touched His burning coal,
a gift more precious than all the constellations shining above.
"Visiting Scholars at Christmas" previously appeared in A World in Transit (Ethos
"Restoring a Mural in Changi Chapel" previously appeared in After the Fall (dirges
among ruins) (Ethos Books, 2014). Overcoming initial reluctance because of wartime trauma, Stanley Warren returned to Singapore’s Changi Prison thrice after World War II. He repainted his murals, rediscovered on the prison’s old infirmary walls. The gospel verse, Luke 23:34, is written on a Crucifixion mural by Warren.
Jared Randall is a writer of poetry, fiction, and essays, production editor for the journal Rethinking Marxism, and cohost of Overdetermined: A Rethinking Marxism Podcast. He teaches various forms of writing at Western Michigan University. He is author of the poetry collection Apocryphal Road Code (Salt Publishing, 2010) and other writings available in print and online.
It is too much for you to bend
you will break and you know
it. You know the deep hurt
is coming but you will break
you will not bend your religion
to small things: kneeling to a child
for a laugh, wearing a mask too,
admitting that maybe you could be
wrong. But no, your brain holds
the cosmos in its hand: “I got
the whole world in my hands,
I got the whole wide world…”
stalled at your feet.
you get to say if and when and how you
hold on, lives gripped and squeezed
white-knuckled, sweat-palmed, sorted
to your mind’s sole eye, the world
where you left it: flip-flops, Reaganomics,
extended Apocalypse knocking the door
on grandfather’s radioed lips, AM-tuned
since 1980. See traces, the cosmic microwave
background to your universal trauma moment
no golden record could capture,
[maybe like mine: a belt
slaps bare ass; tears; confusing
your first best Trinity flung spaceward, gaslit:
The honesty to see;
The courage to admit;
The love of dear ones
over pundits, proselytizers, profiteers.