Excerpts from Dead Serious (Walang Halong Biro) by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles
(Manila: De La Salle University Publishing House, forthcoming 2018)


translated from Filipino by Kristine Ong Muslim

Once a stranger
I am here now

no longer that

and yet (No longer)
every so often

I am no longer
a stranger




Minsang estranghero
narito ako ngayon

hindi na ganoon ka-

ngunit (Hindi na ganoon)
nananatiling minsan

hindi na ako
estranghero pa




*translated from Filipino by Kristine Ong Muslim

I often talk to you
through letters that not

even one you have received

I enclose
a part of myself

just like what my mother did

when she still knitted
daily as if drawing out and spinning

herself into the weave

She had not finished
all her knitting

As if she had to abruptly end
her waiting

My dear stranger

one day I will stop
writing to you

I will send you a blank piece of paper—

for which you can read me
if you please




Madalas kinakausap kita
sa liham na wala

isa mang nakarating sa iyo

Inilalakip ko
ang bahagi ng sarili

tulad ng aking ina

noong naggagantsilyo
araw-araw tila iniiikid niya

ang sarili sa hinahabi

Hindi niya natapos
lahat ng gantsilyuhin

Bigla na lang tila natapos
ang kanyang paghihintay

Mahal kong estranghero

isang araw ititigil ko na
ang pagliham sa iyo

Bibigyan kita ng patlang—

dito ako basahin
kung iibigin mo




*translated from Filipino by Kristine Ong Muslim

Stranger, someone out there is obsessed
with you and whose rapt attention you hold

and whose rapt attention is with you
the “I” of the self in the lyric




Estranghero, may nagtatangi
sa iyo nang lubusan na sa iyo

at nasa iyo nang lubusan dito
ang ako ang sarili sa liriko

About the Author

Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles’s eighteen books in Filipino include, among others, Guwang, Pilas ng Papel: Mga Sanaysay sa Tula, Pesoa, and Kurap sa Ilalim, as well as a volume of selected poems, Ang Iyong Buhay ay Laging Mabibigo (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2016), and a limited-edition release called Talik from Balangay Books. English translations (by Kristine Ong Muslim) of his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, magazines, and anthologies, including Asymptote, Circumference: Poetry in Translation, Construction Magazine, Fishhouse, Samovar, [sic] – a journal of literature, culture and literary translation, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Adirondack Review, The Cossack Review, Speculative Masculinities (UK: Galli Books, 2019), and The Silent Garden: A Journal of Esoteric Fabulism (Canada: Undertow Publications, 2018). A recipient of multiple national awards and fellowships, two-time Philippine National Book Award finalist Arguelles is co-editor of the journal hal., works as a book editor, and teaches literature and creative writing at the De La Salle University.

About the Translator

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of nine books, including the short story collections The Drone Outside (Eibonvale Press, 2017), Butterfly Dream (Snuggly Books, 2016), and Age of Blight (Unnamed Press, 2016), as well as the poetry collections Lifeboat (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2015), Meditations of a Beast (Cornerstone Press, 2016), and Black Arcadia (University of the Philippines Press, 2017). She is co-editor of two anthologies: with Nalo Hopkinson for the British Fantasy Award-winning People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction and with Paolo Enrico Melendez and Mia Tijam for Sigwa: A Climate Fiction Anthology from the Philippines (Polytechnic University of the Philippines Press, forthcoming 2018). Her short stories have been published in The Cincinnati Review, Tin House, and World Literature Today. She grew up and continues to live in a rural town in southern Philippines.