the calm


A typical scene in Sulu & Tawi-tawi islands, when calmness is a boat cradled by the gentle sea in the safety of a wharf on a breezy, sunny day. Photo of a Simunul Island wharf by Harly Limlingan Marcuap of, 2013.

the calm

(from the collection: Mt. Tumantangis and Other Poems on Sulu)

it haunts the people’s dream of comfort too.
the cozy rooms, the furnished halls
drive the cold out into the night
and into the poor man’s house, it nurses
the bleeding lungs, the muted mouth.
and when a launch docks beside the wharf
with shrill hoots in the early dawn
arrival is no more wakeful than
departures in the afternoon.

lethargy becomes contagious as
a memory struggling back to mind
from within the fallen walls,
the silent rubble
a soul search leads to a tower
too often neglected by the many
who neither know the brewing storm
nor perceive the strength behind
the stinging calmness of a sea.

down the planks a step and two
the eyes miss the reckless faces,
the funny feet:
behind the sand sacks, a soldier softly
whistles forth a tune
and just as casually warms a steel
back to life for the hours of the day.

© said sadain, jr. 1978

Author’s note: 

for this poem, contemplate
the temporary period of calm
that holds back the wind and the sea
from dancing up a maelstrom.

— SSJ, 9 November 2017


The Sulu islands, when calmness is the pregnant silence behind sandbags at the first whiff of a brewing storm. Mashup image by SSJ (using Harly’s photo above and a US Army photo here) to depict a typical scene in Sulu during the mid 1970s.

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12 Responses to the calm

  1. full of continuous thoughts. I really like it. 🙂 Just before I read your poem I had put on James Galloway playing the flute. I must say the two went very well together.

    • The bamboo flute, called suling by the locals, is quite common in Sulu. In the early 1970s in the town of Jolo, I used to listen to the haunting tunes of the flute being played from a neighbor’s house in the wee hours of the night. Yes, the music of the flute would go well with this poem. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

  2. NorCal Zen says:

    Very interesting!

  3. Evocative, even more so following your contemplation suggestion!

  4. Pingback: WPC: Temporary | Lillie-Put

  5. Imelda says:

    this has the feel of the calm before the storm, and because of that, I guess, it embodies ‘temporary’. The last lines are ominous.

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