Runner-Up Poem in the Shahid Ali Ghazal Contest

Vince Gotera

Aswang Ghazal: Santiago’s Confession

As long as I can remember, I’ve been aswang.
Deadly hidden fact, the fate and life of an aswang.

As a boy I found I could sprout black sleek fur,
but only in hiding. Never to shout, “I Am Aswang!”

The urge so great, so deeply seductively tempting,
To be wild dog under moon, howling young aswang.

The hard sweet ache of bones grinding, grinding,
Inside the melting body of a shapeshifting aswang.

Eyes like twin stars, able to see far in deep dark.
Skin on slow fire, taut muscles of swift, lean aswang.

Muffled pad of paws on forest floor, far from home.
Man prey ahead in moonlight: fear the hunting aswang.

Am I a conqueror, invincible? Or could I be a swan?
White wings, open sky, soft dream sanctifying aswang.

Note: This ghazal is from a long narrative sequence about two aswang
(Philippine mythological monsters) who fall in love despite their natures.

This poem incorporates slant-rhymed qaafiya and has two takhallus
signatures, one for the poet (“conqueror, invincible”) and another for the
speaker (“sanctifying”).