Birds of Paradise
after Women with birds of paradise, by Anita Magsaysay-Ho, oil on canvas, 1982
Their eyes are black slits against
Gold of their burnished skin this side
of morning. They do not shatter silence
with chatter of the marketplace.
Only their hands speak of the task,
gathering the day’s burden of beauty:
birds of paradise singing in tongues,
wings spread over and between
their heads, a feast of burning angels.
The youngest among them bends down
deepest into herself, wrapping the green
stems in a second skin against breaking.
The night before, she had watched the sea
while the gravid moon rose red as her belly.
She tore off her white bandana and broke
into the waters, her black seagrass hair dis-
entangling, waves hissing low ‘let be, let go!’
About Marjorie Evasco
Marjorie Evasco was born in Tagbilaran City on the island of Bohol in the Visayas, the central part of the Philippine archipelago. Evasco writes poetry in two languages, English and Cebuano-Visayan. Her two books of poems, Dreamweavers: Selected Poems 1976-1986 (1986) and Ochre Tones: Poems in English and Cebuano (1999) both won the National Book Award for Poetry from the Manila Critics’ Circle. In 2006, Marjorie’s book Ani: The Life and Art of Hermogena Borja Lungay won the Alfredo Ongpin National Book Award on Art from the Manila Critics Circle.
She has received various writing residencies and grants, including the Rockefeller Foundation writing residency in Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy (1992) and the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa, U.S.A. (2002). Her poems have been translated into German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Kannada, Romanian, Vietnamese and Estonian.