Benjamin Agusan is a fictional poet in Lav Diaz’s Death in the Land of Encantos (2007)A great poet on the verge of losing his sanity. He is also, in some ways, the alter ego of Diaz, who has written Benjamin’s poems, allowing us to look into his soul and his view on Philippine society. Encantos is, for me, a poetic film, rather than a slow film. I discussed this in an earlier post, taking the stance that Slow Cinema should be called Poetic Cinema instead. Slow documentaries are always “poetic” documentaries, but slow feature films are always slow (derogative, no?), which has never made sense to me. Either way, slow or poetic, I want this post to be poetic, and I want to give you a chance to discover Lav Diaz as a poet. Below is a transcript of the first poem recited in Encantos. It speaks volumes, if you ask me. But I let you decide.

Relenting as suddenly as it pours
Departing as suddenly as it arrives
Rancid air burgeoning from morning’s promise
Dispersed before noon out of keen jealousy
At the angels of earth and heaven and purgatory and the devil
You roamed the far-reaching river of triangles unable to complete themselves
In a consciousness made restless by torrents and waves and ever shifting curves
You’re Sisa of the desert and Tasyo spinning philosophy in a universe playing half-wit
To five-cent minds bequeathed and poured over by eras old and new
You were a tyke when they reached the moon
You were a kid when a mountain grew from the town lake
Daily you see land and sky, heaven and hell
No corner left in the world, no haven for everyone
A hundred thousand echoes will sink and rise
Behold the blood on the window of a vanished maiden
Angling for the star atop a mango tree
You were a tyke when the chapel fell
You were a kid when murders proliferated
A mysterious song persists in memory
A face from the past being glimpsed
A once muddy place turned into a street
The mountain pounded and crushed into gravel
Before burying your childhood friend
You protested in vain, but you’re hobbled
Your strength sapped, your vigor lost
Time in your hands is merely a cage
Zarzuela out of vogue, amusing no one
You seek to release the hidden curse
You recite poetry down the shoals where the fishes are
Alas a metaphor, alas a mystery
You sing in the abode of addicts
You dance with a ballerina, grasping her by the waist
On your way home in the deep of night
The wind whispers, the stars look down
The branches shake, some wailing in the air
The currents cease, the road not discernible
You will stop by the wayside and piss momentarily
And heat will be released, swirl upward from the soil
You will heave a sigh
Nothing is left
You know you have sinned
You know your days on earth are numbered
No one’s honorable
No one a hero
No one a criminal
No one a saint
No one miserable
No miracle
No one poor
No one rich
No soul
No memory
No more
No more memory
No escape
You grovel in the ocean of memories refusing to flee from the prison
of your solitude
Returning you to breaths that expire while in the womb
Ferrying you to a garden that withers before it blooms
Placing you in a season that becomes autumn before springtime
Laying you down in a world of tempests, a universe that cannot be pacified
None can assuage the bitterness of your every turn
None can take away the profound grief of every saintly image that falls on
the center of your eye.