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P[e]NORAMA | creative writing

Winnowing06.05.09

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winowing-lg

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I watch my grandmother

As she patiently winnows the grains

Moving the winnowing basket

Up, down; up down

Tossing its content into the air.

I see the chaffs being blown away

Leaving behind the grains.

 

Then, when there are no more chaffs left,

She stops, but she’s not yet done.

She spreads the grains out thinly on the flat basket

And looks for pebbles that might have

Been mixed with the grains.
She picks the pebbles and throws them away.

 

I stare at her hands, rough from hard labor;

Amazed at how patiently she works.

Then I begin to realize, life’s like that —

A continuous process of winnowing;

Of separating the grains from the chaffs.

Only that sometimes, we throw away

The grains; not the pebbles, not the chaffs.

 

 

[And then we spend the rest of our lives

Staring at the empty husks of our choices

Wondering where the grains went,

Chasing after them, and not seeing them

Amidst the mountains of chaffs

With which we have surrounded ourselves.]

 

 

————-

 

For Lola Matda. When I was young and life was simple, every afternoon, my grandmother and I would go to the big square pavement near our house where grain buying stations dried their rice grains. Using walis tingting (broom) we would sweep the pavement and gather grains that the workers have not swept (we were more meticulous than they).

 

Everyday, we would get about a kilo of grains, or more. When we got home, my grandmother would winnow the rice grains. And she would patiently take away the pebbles that were mixed with the grains. Sometimes, I would help her. At other times, I would just watch her. The ratio of pebble to grain could have been 1:6. So it was really a kind of work that needed lots of patience.

 

I remember, after several weeks or months, my grandmother would gather a cavan of rice.

 

Oh, I so miss my childhood. And my grandma.

 

//Sherma E. Benosa

June 5, 2009; 8:10am

 

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The Bribe05.05.09

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MONDAY, 6:35 pm

 

I nearly slammed my door when I saw Mr. Mario Ventura, our new HRD officer, and Mr. Rolando Bautista, our Sales and Marketing manager, at my doorstep. I had a long bout against them and their fellow managers in the conference room the whole day today. Their tired, forty-something faces were the last things I wanted to see after work. And the uniform they were wearing — black slacks and light blue long-sleeved barong — brought me back to that damned room.

 

I looked at each of them hard, not bothering to conceal the extreme annoyance I felt about their presence.

 

“Won’t stay long.” Mr. Bautista, who was carrying a black leather briefcase in his right hand, announced as he stepped into the living room, not waiting to be invited in. My face must have made it explicitly clear that an invitation was not in order.

 

I moved into the living room without bothering to check if they were following. Reaching the center, I turned around, my face still tight. I didn’t ask them to sit down.

 

Mr. Ventura set the briefcase onto the center table. He opened the briefcase slowly, his eyes focused upon my face. I gave him a nasty look then lowered my gaze to the newly opened bag with its content now exposed. My eyes, swollen from crying and lack of sleep, literally bulged at what I saw. Money! An awful lot of money!

 

Both men noticed my reaction and were evidently pleased by it. “Five hundred thousand pesos in cold cash,” Mr. Ventura stressed. “For you.”

 

I dragged my gaze from the briefcase back to his unsightly face. “For me to keep quiet?”

 

“And for you to withdraw your charges against Mr. Uy.” He said, referring to the sexual harassment charges I filed at the police station against Mr. Uy Huang Lu, our Chinese general manager at Asia Pacific Lifts, Inc. this morning.

 

“And why would I do that?”

 

“Five hundred thousand pesos, that’s why.”

 

“Get lost!”

 

“You’re a fool not to take the money, Jhannie. You’re sending off your three brothers to school, aren’t you? And your father’s very sick with bronchopneumonia, isn’t he?” he asked, his eyes twinkling with malice. I glared at him, damning him for knowing just the right button to push.

 

“Forget about yourself, Jhannie.” Mr. Bautista interjected. “Just think about your family. How would you feel if something happens to your father, knowing that you could have prevented it? And if your brothers dropped out of school, wouldn’t you feel guilty knowing that you could have done something about it? Be practical. Anyway,” his voice dropped, “nothing happened.”

 

“Nothing?” I instantly flared. “I was nearly raped. And you calmly tell me that nothing happened?”

 

“I mean physically. What are kisses, embraces? I’m sure you did more than just those with your past boyfriends. I’m sure you’ve…”

 

“You’re insulting me, Mr. Bautista.” I cut him off. “The issue is not whether the act was consummated or not. We’re talking about a violation committed against my person!” I gritted my teeth.

 

I noticed Mr. Ventura not-too-discreetly signal Mr. Bautista to leave things to him. The latter kept quiet. Mr. Ventura turned his attention back to me. “Jhannie, calm down…”

 

“Calm down? You’ve got the nerve to order me to calm down after what happened to me?”

 

“Jhannie, listen…”

 

“No, Mr. Ventura. You listen. Clearly, we see things differently. And it’s apparent to me whose side you’re on. Tell me, if you could bribe me, what are you going to get in return? Promotion? Reward money?”

 

“Nothing. I’m just protecting the interest of the company.”

 

“Interest of the company? At the expense of the employees? Sir, you’re the HR manager! You’re supposed to protect the employees, not just the management!”

 

“And I’m doing just that. Jhannie, can’t you see? You have no case! No witnesses. No physical marks. No proofs. How could you prove that he molested you? It’s going to be your word against his. And who would take the word of an executive secretary over that of a respected country general manager? No one.” He breathed hard, then his voice softened. “Take the money, Jhannie. You’ll lose one way or another. Remember, you don’t come quite clean, what with the issue with Eric.”

 

I raised my eyebrows at the mention of my American friend’s name. “What’s Eric got to do with this?”

 

“Oh come on. You may be able to fool your officemates into believing that your relationship with Eric Collum is innocent. But the management knows better. And remember, an affair with a married man wouldn’t help you through this case.”

 

“Affair with a…” My head spun when I realized what he was insinuating. “You’re accusing me of sleeping with him, is that it?”

 

“Aren’t you?” he countered.

 

I glared at him. “That’s absurd! He’s my good friend! We’re not doing anything wrong.”

 

“I find that hard to believe. You’ve been spotted together many times. What will your officemates think? The management?”

 

“Ridiculous! Having lunch together does not warrant an affair.”

 

“Yes. But if we’d take it as a character reference,” he paused, a nasty smile playing on his lips, “we can easily plant a seed of doubt about your character.” His face moved closer to mine. “And where will that leave you?”

 

My hands balled. God, how I wanted to knock him off!

 

Again, he smiled. “Take the money, Jhannie. Save your face.”

 

“Get out!”

 

“Sure, we will.” He answered as he calmly closed his briefcase. “But think about it, Jhannie. You have until tomorrow morning to decide.” He picked up the briefcase with his right hand then, beckoning Mr. Bautista to follow him, walked to the door, his confidence unshaken by my outburst. They were already at the door when Mr. Ventura looked back, his face arrogant. “Choose well.”

 

I glared at him, but he and Mr. Bautista just walked coolly to the company car parked not far from my apartment.

 

  (more…)

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Decoded02.26.09

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Letters

Fill the sheet.

 

I read the words

But find no message:

 

I see only the misplaced question marks

And the oversized period.

 

 

I read not the words

But the gaps between them

 

Mirroring how

You stare at me sometimes:

 

Blank, yet undevoid of meaning.

Full in its emptiness.

 

 

Finally, I understand

What you’re trying to tell me:

 

You’re still here

But already gone.

 

I stare stupidly at the question marks

And curse the period.

  

 

Sherma E. Benosa

February 26, 2009; 8:45am

 

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Un-Paris Me02.15.09

 

Help me see beyond the Fraus

That has come to live in you.

 

Show me how to look beyond

The tempest it has made you become.

 

Teach me to look not at

The destruction it has made you wreak

 

But at the torch you patiently held in the olden days

For me to come to where I now stand.

 

 

Remind me you used to be the compass

That showed me where North was —

 

The rudder and sail of my ship

As it traversed many a turbulent seas.

 

Because now I am beginning to forget;

Because now, I am hopelessly

Inebriated in your lies’ putrid breath —

 

Masterfully camouflaged, artfully disguised

In what I now see as phony smiles.

 

 

Pray I’ll remember that in everyone

There lie remnants of Achilles’ heels

 

Pray I’ll learn not to be like Paris

That I may not shoot you in your weakness.

 

Pray I’ll remember, it’s not condemnation

But a torch and a guiding hand that you need.

 

So you could re-discover where North is.

So you could find the strength to kill

The Fraus that has lodged itself in your heart.

 

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Sherma E. Benosa

February 15, 2009; 2:07pm

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Posted in Poetry and Verses, Spiritualwith 11 Comments →

Underneath the Sheaths11.27.08

Written right after I’ve published my very first short story (Sun-dried Leaves). I don’t know what to call this genre. Suffice it to say it was one of my practice pieces.

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I didn’t see him enter the room, didn’t even hear his footsteps as he crossed the short distance from the door to my bed where I was lying, trying to get a much needed sleep. My eyes were shut, but somehow I felt that someone was staring at me. I opened my eyes, and there he was, standing right beside me, his gaze intent upon my face.

I was shocked. I knew he’d be here. But still, his presence surprised me. I didn’t know how to react. And I couldn’t; I was already imprisoned in his gaze. Our eyes locked. He didn’t say anything. He simply stared at me, his gaze penetrating my being. I felt as though he was trying to read through me; to dive into the pool of secrets I kept inside. He held my gaze, willing me to obey his unspoken command not to turn my eyes from him. His eyes so powerful, I lost the will to look away.

(more…)

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Memory11.20.08

The following piece was inspired by a conversation I had with a great friend and writing mentor who was grieving the loss of a loved one. Soon, the conversation turned philosophical.

He said: “If I had not loved, I would not be in deep pain now.” I replied, “Yes, but you will also not have the memories you now cherish in your heart.” The conversation went on. Then, I murmured: “In the end, like the ones who had gone before us, we will just be a memory in the heart of those we will leave behind.”

(more…)

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Posted in Family & Relationships, Life, Love, MuZings, Poetry and Verses, Spiritual, fictionwith 12 Comments →

Enthralled!11.01.08

I see reflections of your glory
In the still waters of your peace
Beckoning me to look deep
Into the calming shades of
Your humming silence.

Like a breeze,
I sway with the soft hues
Of your warm embrace.
My senses attuned to the scent
Of your magnificence.

(more…)

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Posted in Life, Love, Poetry and Verseswith 10 Comments →