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Jimmy Abad of SWS

/ 01:32 AM March 07, 2015

My friendship with the multiawarded poet Jimmy Abad goes back to student days in the 1960s. In 1976, after I had directed the Social Indicators Project for the Development Academy of the Philippines, Jimmy (along with Cesar F. Dizon) readied the resulting 574-page book “Measuring Philippine Development” for publication. In 1985, he and his wife Mercedes R. Abad, the marketing research expert, were among the seven founding fellows of Social Weather Stations. They are proof that poems can cohabit with surveys.

Last week’s festschrift for Jimmy had a reading of his poems by his literary friends. I extend the celebration here by setting out, with his permission, a poem he gave me in 1986.

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The Emperor Had No Clothes,

His Queen Had 3000 Shoes

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Tell us the story, poet,

and tell it to us again—

it is God’s gift,

It is also our prayer.

First, it was forbidden to say

that the Emperor had no clothes,

Next, it was treason to see

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that the Queen had 3000 shoes.

It was the best of times,

it was the worst of times—

we had no cities,

but we had no tale.

And then it happened—

why, no one could see,

or how, no one could say.

An impossible tale

because what happened,

at the time that it did,

had already happened.

Tell us again, poet,

to tell our children—

the monotony of evil,

the terror of God’s gift.

First, the Emperor had already walked

a hundred thousand miles

in the full regalia of his nudity,

he could not recall the first,

and so null was his plumage

the organs of speech were quite unstrung

before the tale returned

and found the city in ruins

across another ocean.

Next, the Queen had already worn

in a hundred thousand dreams

the full museum of her wandering

she could not recall the first,

and so void was her odyssey

the organs of sight were quite denuded

before the tale returned

and found her city in tears

under alien palms.

Yet tell us, poet, why

and how, and the turning point—

the strangeness of common good,

the suddenness of giving.

O, in the Emperor’s tale,

there was a child in the crowd

who found suddenly the word for truth—

the high nudity of royal clothes!

And the people laughed

because terror had lost its shadow.

O, in the Queen’s tale,

there was a widow in the crowd

who suddenly found the word for power—

the feet’s humility, and loveliness of soil!

And the people wept

because love is such strange law.

O, tell us again, poet,

tell us what it means—

Our story,

God’s gift as also our prayer.

I have told you a parable.

The child, the widow, and—

always last—the poet,

who is both widow and child:

they are the Other of Revolution.

The poet in retrospect

is the last revolutionary,

because he speaks not for others,

he alone finally can speak.

He speaks the hue and cry

of the lost and powerless.

He speaks

the total abolition of Power:

not the desire—a secret city;

not the experience—a teeming metropolis;

But power.

Gémino H. Abad

3 Aug ’86

* * *

Contact [email protected]

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TAGS: Cesar F. Dizon, Gémino H. Abad, Jimmy Abad, Mercedes R. Abad, poetry, Social Indicators Project for the Development Academy of the Philippines
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