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The Tahamaling


The Tahamaling 
by Michael Janairo

The red and angry rash blistered
his torso after he killed the wild boar
and bled it out behind his house

The rash looked like betel-nut spit,
but he had not seen poisonous plants
as he hunted along the forest tracks

He shot the boar; an angry cry filled
the forest. He thought of his hungry
family and rifle-butted the boar silent

Still the rash blistered red and angry,
pustules of welts stringing together
to form a single word: Sacrifice.

She came at dusk to the forest edge:
red skin, bare-breasted, long limbed,
gold hair falling down her shoulders

Wolves and boars prowled at her feet,
small birds fluttered about her head,
lit with flickers of butterfly wings

Their eyes met and then his stung,
red and angry rash now blinding,
tears streaming as a vision took hold

He saw himself hoisted and bleeding
upside down behind his house
the hunter hunted for forgetting

He now felt around him to gather
his last betel nut and stumbled
blind toward the forest edge

In one hand, he carried the offering
of forgiveness to the forest guardian
whose form he longed glimpse again

The other, he stretched out before him
expected to touch her naked flesh?
a wolf's sharp teeth? a boar's tusk?

He felt a balete tree's bark
and set his sacrifice on the ground,
and, at once, his vision returned,

The Tahamaling, betel nut, and animals
were gone; the rash cooled, subsided,
but a scar remained, saying Sacrifice

* * *

Michael Janairo’s poetry and fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including New Reader Magazine, Star Ship Sofa, Mithila Review, Lontar, Star*Line, Eye to the Telescope, and Long Hidden. A former arts journalist, he lives and works in upstate New York with his wife and dog. His Filipino family name is pronounced "ha NIGH row." He blogs at michaeljanairo.com.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

Something that inspired this poem is a desire to see more of the Filipino culture that is my heritage reflected in the literature of the English language, which through war and circumstance is my native tongue.

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