From the Archive (2020) | ‘Nadare’ by Romalyn Ante

The highway children beat the traffic lights, 
selling cigarettes through jeepney windows. 
Tarnished coins weigh down their belt-bags
as they walk back to ramshackle homes,
past the market road that thrums with catacombs 
beneath its pavements.

You blink – and you’re in your thirties, blinded 
by a blizzard in a country you try calling home.

Your hands are old and empty
until they press against the ground
where you find yourself with the gang 
hunting lizard eggs in the floorboard gaps.

You’re stifled by the noon under the aratilis tree,
the clacking of fruit-pellets into your handmade guns.

On your last visit, a swirl of dust thrusts you 
away from the village vagabond who claims 
he’d drunk beers with God.
Your auntie says he’s the father
of your childhood friend Pedro –

Pedro who declares the world isn’t real
as he wigwags the sign that summons Nadare,
his guardian dragon, flames gushing from his scapula.

You squint – and a mountain ridge crumbles into a portal, 
dried watermelon seeds crack open between your teeth.

You’re devoured by the noon you set a forest on fire,
or that hour you found yourselves crouched under a sink, 
over a gecko amputating its own tail.

Tonight, the world laughs like Santa Claus
and you dream about the younger you – still glued 
to the eucalyptus-heat of Pedro’s lips.
Acacia petals gemmed in your shoulders.

His skull is still to shatter on the tarmac, 
fingertips still to bruise prunes black.

Each autumn you wade through a hailstorm 
that blasts like an endless motor horn. 
Blink – and a lamppost will click on.
Pedro will be there, in a tattered vest,
a gibbous gloss on his cheek.
His hand raises into a ray-gun aimed at you –

feel how your head flings back,
how the earth and everything it bears drops dead.