Dinah Roma-Sianturi

Dinah Roma-Sianturi is an associate professor of literature and the director of the De La Salle University’s Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center (Manila). Her first collection of poetry A Feast Of Origins (2004) was given the National Book Award by the Manila Critics’ Circle while her recent work Geographies of Light (2007) won a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature.



Family Portrait 

Where I touch their faces
creases cut through their gaze,
dreading the escape
past the lens.
Too many times I looked,
too many times I fancied
where they had gone after
the stillness, how into the fields
blurred by their shadows, they had
shaken the horror off their bones.
Among them, I could have
taken my place, stepped into
the imperceptible pact of light
and shadow, past and present
conniving where I’d stand
in that instance of bodies
composed for history—
Next to my mother, perhaps, barely
sixteen, faint in the background,
her lean arms limp at her side;
or, beside my aunt, a nimble girl,
whose hair shorn of passion,
sang herself to exile.
What story of that year
and place recalls the daybreak
they were herded into the river mouth,
the hour calmed by the leaves’
consenting sway?
In this airy, well-lit room,
a tale long sealed in glass
shimmers each time light shines
on them now, as when sun hits
water, as when surface breaks
in ripples of fear.

After Hafez

I did as you say.
I did not surrender
my loneliness
too soon.

I waited for what
it can teach me
of heaven
and earth,
of what keeps
them apart.

What blessing it is
when voice breaks
crying out for God—

a heart seasoned,
the body scarred
by cuts deeper
than divine.


The Naked Imperative

Endure is what the morning
Wants to say each time dawn
Bares the gentle sprawl
Of her body as light seeps
Through the thin shade
Failing to honor why she is here—
The shifts of joy, the unbelief
In promise that moves her
Past space, her steps,
The pardon of distance.

And what is it like
When she stands bearing
The gift she mourns and seeks,
The desire that comes
With the world, and offers
No door out of it? 

                     Endure is this
Woman’s will and giving.
The earth stirred, hewn
By its own longing.

She is still. Naked. Sleep
Of deep valleys, ridges and planes—
The nightfall’s landscape
Of blissful absolution.