Nick Carbo


When The Grain Is Golden and The Wind Is Chilly Then it is Time To Harvest


Leron-leron sinta, umakyat sa papaya
Dala-dala’y buslo’, sisidlan ng bunga

In a dusty village in Cagayan Valley,
Ramon and his father were planting rice when soldiers

appeared on their farm. They questioned his father,
if he’d seen any communist rebels recently

in the area, and when he did not give them
a good enough answer, they beat him with the blunt ends

of their rifles, shot him as he was lying
on the ground. Ramon snuck away but remained hidden

in nearby bushes, to witness the soldiers
laugh out loud as they chopped his father’s shaking body--

'they first removed his penis, then cut below
the knees, then the ankles, then the elbows, then the neck.'

Leron-leron sinta, umakyat sa papaya
Dala-dala’y buslo’, sisidlan ng bunga

After dusk Ramon ran home to his mother
and younger brother. She feared the soldiers would soon knock

on their door, so she took her sons deep inside
the muddy jungle of the Sierra Madre mountains.

After about four weeks, she sent Ramon to buy
rice, some fish, and a few canned goods. The sun was heavy,

the road to the village kept stretching further
and his legs felt weak, so Ramon boarded a jeepney

to take him to the market on Luna street.
A soldier recognized him at a military

checkpoint and he pointed his gun at Ramon,
yelled at him to step out with his hands up in the air.

Leron-leron sinta, umakyat sa papaya
Dala-dala’y buslo’, sisidlan ng bunga

No questions were asked. Ramon told us the most
painful torture he endured was when the soldiers joined

two blocks of wood and used the weapon to hit
him directly on the ears, over and over

until he bled. He doesn’t remember how
he escaped but he found himself wandering around

the countryside for days, eating grass,
guava leaves, bamboo shoots, and bananas to survive.

Leron-leron sinta, umakyat sa papaya
Dala-dala’y buslo’, sisidlan ng bunga

Here, at the Children’s Rehabilitation
Center, Ramon made friends, played with the other children,

started to learn how to write. He asked questions
about his mother and younger brother, he wanted

to know when he could return to his village
to harvest their rice fields. He said it was important

to go home because 'when the grain is golden
and the wind is chilly, then it is the time to harvest.'

After four months, we learned that Ramon’s mother
was probably dead. 'Where’s the body? I want to see

the body, I want to bury my mother.'
I told him we didn’t know where the body was, but we

would try to find it. After a long silence,
he finally went to his room. Then I followed him

upstairs, found him hunched over the bathroom sink
washing his red face again and again and again.

Leron-leron sinta, umakyat sa papaya
Dala-dala’y buslo’, sisidlan ng bunga

Ramon is still with us, his friends have brought him
out of his shell, he has learned how to speak Tagalog,

and he is beginning to read. Ramon dreams
about going home. He writes letters to his younger

brother even though we tell him he is still
missing. We collect those letters he writes every day.

He tells his younger brother, 'If you come here,
you will have many good friends to play with, eat plenty

of food, and these nice people will let us stay
here in Manila, but maybe I will go home first

and see what’s happened to our family farm.'
He then writes, 'Do you know that your mother is now dead?'

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004
Edited: Monday, January 23, 2012

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Comments about this poem (When The Grain Is Golden and The Wind Is Chilly Then it is Time To Harvest by Nick Carbo )

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  • Jose 'Pepe' Carrascal (7/15/2007 1:40:00 AM)

    ahhhh... this struck me. your poem reminds me of F Sionil Jose's books.

    Indeed, 'when the grain is golden and the wind is chilly, then it is the time to harvest'.

    splendidly written. the harrowing truth lives in every line. kudos. (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

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