Relief from battle

There you go, strutting ‘round the block with pep, chest proud, chin up with a spring in your step,

Seen the way you interact with others, both at work and at play,

Power and combativeness appears to be the name of your game,

A conqueror and intimidator just like Alexander, swaggering like Charlemagne,

Ruthless as The Prince, the Macchiavellian kind, certainly you ain’t the retreating type,

When it comes to unions the other better submit to ya,

Pushing back’s no option, there can only be one leader,

It’s a weakling that can’t handle ya, wilting against the heat,

They were never worthy if they’re quick to admit defeat.

At least that’s how you present yourself, not sure if it’s real or a mask,

Flying solo, mostly, you just can’t find that perfect match.

‘The world must be crazy, because surely it ain’t me’,

‘They just can’t handle this smouldering alpha energy,’

Easy there, Tiger, seems you judge ‘em too soon,

Might fancy yourself the Don, but let’s weigh up pros and cons,

It helps to be assertive, a closed mouth don’t get fed, can feel that energy coursing ‘round through ya, it’d fill would-be antagonists with dread,

They that take the lead have the final say, they that take the initiative win the day,

Fortune favors the bold, gotta grab opportunities on both horns,

But in some aspects a liability, gotta know when to take that mask off,

Too much heat and not enough cool, something’s bound to pop off,

They that seek relationships of any kind ain’t looking for no fight,

Different day a new battle, don’t need additional from friends and lovers, just want relief from the war after working hours,

Who’s checking to go home to further battles after waging some throughout the day?

Better to live alone than be with one looking to engage,

Makes sense to adopt such traits when negotiating, competing or at the workplace,

But if this is you twenty-four-seven you better keep an eye on your family and friends,

Guaranteed more than a few are low-key hating, maybe cooking your just desserts,

Ain’t no bragging matter, not even Julius would’ve flexed ‘bout that stabbing,

Better loosen up fast if you want relationships to last, might consider yourself top class but in truth they see you an insecure ass.

Flip the script to gain some perspective, what if the roles were reversed?

Might meet your mirror image sooner or later, perhaps at some place after work,

Imagine living life unable to switch off, eggshells that you’re walking on, waiting for the next fight, could come from the one you call your ride or die,

Doesn’t sound appealing, does it? Not many would be up for it,

They ain’t weak or scared for swerving ya, wanting a life of peace ain’t cowardice,

Chill the temperature down a notch, the heat is intense,

Why treat loved ones like your rivals? Shit just don’t make any sense,

Need to let off steam then why not against real fighters?

A boxing gym’s a good starting point, go on and trade hands, maybe engage in conversation with those of opposing opinions,

That should sate your appetite for confrontations, your craving for debates,

Before you head on home and hang the mask up, tomorrow’s a new day.

Ms. Monroe’s Quote

You’ve all seen that quote from one, Marilyn Monroe,

A mantra for many, for reasons both right and wrong,

Sooner or later identities are crafted, life’s work influenced by one’s past experiences,

The road travelled reflected in a series of acquisitions,

Ain’t no one’s perfect, every one of us got flaws and weaknesses to compliment strengths and advantages, a wider gap for some than it is for others,

To put one’s self out there is daunting, the fear of rejection is ever-present,

Though it comes with the territory one wouldn’t seek the experience willingly,

May you find those that vibe with you, ride or die with you,

Bring out your full potential, but you must return the favour,

Others aren’t faring any better due to defects in their character,

In ways that turn off the population, in ways anti-social,

Conceit, a short fuse or not-so-pleasant views, can suck the energy out the room, the types best left avoided ‘lest they kill the mood,

Some of ‘em are aware and try to grow from it accordingly,

While others remain in denial, their egos be leaving ‘em blinded.

Which brings us back to Ms Monroe and what she was saying,

Endorsed by most when it comes to courting and choosing;

“If you can’t handle me at my worst then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”,

Often a justification when screening potential partners, even when choosing friends,

On the surface it makes sense, why deny your true self just to please the rest?

Faking it ain’t making it in this regard, they never deserved you if they ain’t checking for who you truly are,

But the sentiment has its limits, not immune from being distorted,

Peep at ‘em, twisting the meaning to justify their actions,

But there’s no honour in manipulation, no glory in disloyalty,

No one likes an egotist, let alone a raging narcissist,

Abusers are cowards in disguise, projecting pain and feelings of inferiority to their so-called one and only, whom they’re supposed to love tenderly,

Shallowness ain’t a virtue, neither is rudeness and being a prick,

Plenty of fish but no one’s looking to snag a bitch or a dick,

How dare you expect ‘em to bend to your messed-up ways,

How dare you treat ‘em badly then expect ‘em to stay,

If your love is true then you’d make an effort to change, if not they’ll bounce and you’ll have no one to blame,

Takes two to tango to make it work, a one-sided union ain’t it,

Complement and respect one another, even in friendships,

Be willing to call out one another for bad behaviour, we all mess up from time to time,

Accountability is key, don’t ever let that shit slide.

By all means let the real ones embrace you, imperfections and all,

But it won’t mean shit if only you’re permitted to have flaws,

Don’t play dumb with ‘em, you won’t get away with it,

No one decent and self-respecting would tolerate being treated like shit,

You reap only what you sow, whether it’s for what you’re hustling or the energy you draw,

Continue to be a source of toxicity, boomerang effect will leave you in a tizzy,

Make a change or forever be left wondering why you’re repelling ‘em,

Never too late but only if you really want it, being deplorable’s no option, how soon will you grow from it?

If Tomorrow Never Comes: The ‘R’ Card

Can’t forget about that day from the year 2013,

Just another work day, rostered on the afternoon shift,

Hopped into the car, time to get the show rolling,

Unaware of the forced absence that was looming,

Ronan Keating on the radio as I approached a roundabout,

A frequent setting for many an accident, never would’ve guessed that I’d ever be joining ‘em,

Ran through it once the coast was clear, then out came another vehicle from left-field,

‘Why’s this fool speeding? I’m already in this roundabout crossing,’

Better brace yourself, Kiddo, this stretch of road ‘bout to claim another victim,

Tried to pass through quickly while the other guy slammed the brakes belatedly,

Struck my left side without much force, thankfully, but left a dent that was rather unsightly,

His front lights trashed and bumper hanging off the grill, gonna cost him plenty just to get ‘em fixed, 

Could see him gesticulating from his windscreen, safe to say shit’s about to get real,

Feral eyes on point while ranting incoherently, if he wants smoke I’m ready to unleash my inner Bruce Lee,

Gently pulled over to the side of the road, got out and waited for him,

He pulled up behind me then climbed out his vehicle, ears steaming as he stomped towards my direction,

A few cross words exchanged, accusations galore,

Didn’t come to blows though the temptation to swing was rather strong,

Cooled down after a while, left him to dial triple-zero,

Then chilled next to our respective banged-up rides, awaiting the po-po.

They arrived fifteen minutes later, both coppers Caucasian,

I don’t mention that for provocation but I do have my reasons,

Anyway, we got to talking, they wanted our version of events, they asked the other dude first, the reason I can’t fathom,

Off he goes ranting ‘bout how he beat me into that concrete circle on the street, practically spitting before dragging proceedings into places ignorant and cringy,

“See the way guys like him are driving?” he’s raging, “they drive differently from us,”

Playing THAT card huh, Buddy? Took all my strength not to cuss,

Thought he had the complexion for the connection but any privileges he thinks he’s entitled to ‘bout to be shattered,

But the reaction from the coppers truly was something quite disturbing,

Shared similarities to the culprit, yes I mean their skin tone, they seemed to look at one another, I don’t like where this is going,

Had to collect myself, can’t show no emotions, the odds stacked against me now, time to tip the scales in my favour,

Calmly told my side of the story, how I’d been at the crossing first,

How our old, angry and bearded friend flew from out of nowhere, it was pure human error so not gonna judge him by his colour,

Having heard both sides, coppers ordered us to our respective quarters, to call our insurance companies and let ‘em sort through the rubble,

Bad news for the other driver, took the low road and he ain’t even covered,

Way to play yourself, Mister, total costs are gonna give you ulcers,

Dialled my insurance folks, informed them of what happened,

Hoping I’d get off easy, that they’d proclaim me not guilty,

Sure enough they said that they’d handle it, sadly gotta get that car towed then repaired,

Gonna be without wheels for a while, going out and about gonna be real interesting.

Two Blokes With Carrying Poles

Just a typical morning in an apartment block at UP’s Diliman campus,

Where Mom and Pops graduated, their alma mater, not far from the bustling city of Manila,

Lived in a building at the end of a long driveway, beyond our front door a small, paved walkway,

Overlooked by a tall, forbidding gate, behind it a dirt road where street kids liked to play,

Every day without fail, even during weekends come sun, wind and rain,

The peddlers are on time, always, going about their trade without fail,

During the mornings it’s the puto vendor, an old-timer in his 60s or 70s,

Skin brown and leathery, voice rendered gravelly, likely, from years of smoking ciggies,

A wide sombrero atop that dome, two baskets’ worth of confections hanging off his carrying pole,

Slung across his shoulders, he’s out there looking like a walking scarecrow,

Traipsing up and down the walkway, lined with small gardens and flowers in buckets,

Some on hanging baskets, adding color to the greyness,

“Puto! I have puto! Who wants puto!” he’s calling just as the block is waking,

Not many seem eager, it’s still nine-thirty in the morning,

Some kids and their parents come out to greet him, clearly early risers,

Might have already had their breakfast so might as well get ‘em some desserts,

No alarm clock needed while he’s grinding, that early morning call as loud as a rooster crowing,

The gruff exterior hid a gentle nature, naturally kids and their parents take a liking to him,

Then off he goes, hanging ‘round that walkway, in case other families are waking,

Admiring front gardens in the process, put away the side-eye he’s just chilling.

Behind that aforementioned gate, a dirt road spreads behind the complex,

Barrels and old construction equipment lie abandoned beneath the building, a gated stone home staring directly across it,

A shanty town lines the end of the road, chaos reigns as street kids and stray animals are mingling,

Rough play the order of the day, this well-off city boy willingly joined the fray,

Differences in social standings inconsequential, just out there running, tackling and enjoying it,

Once mid-day arrives it happens, that near-mythical being appears from out of nowhere,

Two tins of his precious cargo dangled from a carrying pole slung across his shoulders,

That would be taho, that sweet, sweet Filipino dessert,

Tofu, arnibal and sago pearls, comfort food for the general population,

‘Taho!!! Taho!!!’ he’s calling from atop his lungs and heart, the voice nowhere as hoarse as his puto-selling counterpart, they’re running several decades apart,

Playtime is halted, suddenly, kids rush towards him, excitedly,

Can only look on in amazement, he’s like a real-life version of the pied piper,

Felt like the odd one out, couldn’t have any said the parents,

Street snacks ain’t safe for eating, there’s no telling what could be in it,

So back to the apartment I go, lunchtime’s right ‘round the corner, rough play with the lads will just have to resume a little later.

Been more than 30 years, time sure does fly quickly,

Never knew their names yet they still exist vividly within my memory,

Still think about ‘em up to now, after all this time,

Certainly one of ‘em’s already crossed over to the other side,

Similar thoughts ‘bout those kids with whom I used to play,

Had they found a way out or stayed stuck in place?

For the record, Dear Reader, that apartment complex is still standing,

Nestled among trees within Mom and Pops’ alma mater,

Through a child’s eyes the ‘hood seemed so much larger,

Such thoughts come easily when one’s universe is confined to one area,

In a grown man’s shoes it seems shrunken, like homes had downsized and roads narrowed,

At times got me feeling like Gulliver returning to his old suburb,

Just a piece of my childhood that I’m sharing with y’all, a window into a time long gone,

Took two different vendors to pry it open, the ones loudly selling what they’re bearing on their carrying poles.