No. 1 - Year 8 - 12/2017
Literary Translation

Fourteen Pictures

DOI: 10.15291/sic/


The mouth of the old man
remains open

to speaking as if repeatedly
breathing on the words

so as to relinquish them wholly
to the wind while earnestly

listening nothing is heard
by the old man in the middle


In the hollow of their mouths
the hymn for darkness seems in tune

Marked by eyes that roll back
in extreme terror

while huddling in front
in an inexplicable urge to congregate

when traveling to Saint Isidore

Night crawls past sanity’s remains
Left behind by a dwindling sanity


Crashing any moment now is
the blade
against whoever invites to the dining table

this widow, who volunteered to redeem
the Israelites, according to the Apocrypha

Her expression is meek
yet intent on fulfilling what she took upon herself:

behead the enemy without faltering

There is no need to rinse
even when the hands are bloodstained


A combination of terror and madness
is on the face of the god swallowing

his offspring

As if aware of his utter depravity
yet lacking power

even in his divinity

to overcome an immense hunger
like that of a beast

His eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets
in intense craving and incredulity

The hollow of his mouth is vast
Swallowing the insides


The witches convene

The two main characters
are on the opposite sides:

the great he-goat to the left
and the maiden is seated

on the right side that had been lopped off
during restoration, according to the note

the over fifty-inch distance across

The edge of what was painted had vanished
You disappeared in the middle of the canvas


Discovered upon close examination:
the veil was painted only at the end

It cast a pall over the docile face
of a lady who leaned against a rock

her slightly bent body
The arm rests against the head

The piece of cloth is so light
but cannot be lifted


Nothing else can be uncovered
except for what’s in the beginning:

orphaned dog in a piece of land
Only the head is visible overhead

Deeply unsettling
is that gaze from the pit

where only the eyes can be seen

Whatever’s in front is at the brink
of exclusion and salvation


Where were the two going—
to a nearby mountain

where horsemen
were likely to go

or somewhere much farther than the unknown
places the painter visited as he succumbed

to isolation at Quinta del Sordo

with his demons
the creatures wrenched from silence

and perhaps, with the precious Leocadia


Compared to the figurines at the threshold to the right
the long queue on the left is more prominent

at the back: those who were hazily sketched
The blurry-faced ones in the procession

They make up most of the artwork
if not the loss of the painter

who chose to distance himself from the public
without ever leaving the public behind

The shadows could not leave him


What is concealed by the hand
that was concealed by the hands

that created the fourteen pictures

on the walls that spanned
the entirety of his sanctuary

What the paintbrushes insisted on

What was held by the form
in his hands kept secret

from everyone


The only one looking up
among the men reading

from the same book appears not to have time

for knowledge that can alter
any condition

Filling a blank that has been reserved
Ending in the unseen


The two strangers wield something for beating
each other and are likely bloodied from the brawl

even though the painting shows only one of them
to have bloody streaks on the face

Both are knee-deep in mud
in a duel where there’s no retreating

until the end. Whoever will win
stays locked up where he has escaped


They seem to float in air:
The Daughters of Night

Doling out destinies to those on the ground
like the person they’re with on the canvas

The hands were tied

yet he was still able to paint
those who tied his hands:

Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos


Along with owls and bats
also common in his works

are the witches
Depictions of the deterioration of form

like the senile folks before the dinner table
in the picture. The gaze and the grin etched

on the face of the old man at the center
you take to mean as his readiness to feast

Note About Contributor(s)

Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles

Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles’ twelve books in Filipino include, among others: Parang (High Chair, 2008), Alingaw (High Chair, 2010), Alinsunurang Awit (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2010), Antares (Aklat Kurimaw, 2010), Mal (High Chair, 2011), Mga Tala at Panaginip (High Chair, 2012), Guwang (High Chair, 2013), Pilas ng Papel: Mga Sanaysay sa Tula (De La Salle University Publishing House, 2013), and Pesoa (Balangay Books, 2014), a finalist for the Philippine National Book Awards, as well as a volume of selected poems, Ang Iyong Buhay ay Laging Mabibigo (Ateneo de Naga University Press, 2016). A recipient of multiple national awards and fellowships in the Philippines, Arguelles is co-editor of the journal hal., works as a book editor, and teaches literature and creative writing at the De La Salle University in Manila.

Kristine Ong Muslim

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry, most recently the short story collections Age of Blight (Unnamed Press, 2016), one of the best books of 2016 according to the Chicago Review of Books, and Butterfly Dream (Snuggly Books, 2016), as well as the poetry collections Meditations of a Beast (Cornerstone Press, 2016) and Black Arcadia (University of the Philippines Press, 2017). She serves as poetry editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, a literary journal published by Epigram Books in Singapore, and was co-editor with Nalo Hopkinson of the original fiction section of the Lightspeed Magazine special issue, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction!. Widely anthologized and published in magazines, she grew up and continues to live in southern Philippines.