The painter will have the people
conduct their bodies and day’s errands
to the run of each letter. Smooth
comprehensive pictographs for the foreigner
to take with him— harvests of sugarcane
and abaca, cockfights, flora endemic,
some Chinoisserie, a black-haired girl
bathing at the artesian well, and an Igorot
with his prized peninsular’s head— all
spelling out his name. The figures hew close
to each majuscule: O’s a belly, stems for an E,
the D’s humped back a guard hunched over asleep,
and the F a proud straight-backed native,
his blade unsheathed and under
his other arm at the end of which
a black-red dripping head, F’s serif.
To foreground the plane of the name
the painter will blazon it in full color.
Brilliant tasseled silks over celadon jars,
glistening brown fruit of the betel, russet
pools by the foot, men the color of mud cakes.
The painter will have none of the noonday sun,
the background a featureless creeping
past outlines and into gullies of the letters
where a dark beast of burden will lighten
or a fire-breasted cock with talons of cream.
An arm hardly there for the handed-out wares.
Bridges thin into wires on the far horizon
then sink from the scene. Ships
and carriages stream translucent away
from the thick impasto
and the opacity of what the eye can see
toward the vanishing point.