I lied when I said “I’ll be home soon, don’t you worry about me” I just didn’t want to hear you burst into tears through the receiver for it would also rain down my cheeks under the shadow of my helmet. I lied when I said “Victory is ours” after two nights and a wake-up the only thing that was ours were the dead bodies of my comrades bullet holes looked like constellations a mixture of green and red on the concrete sky. I lied when I said “Prepare a feast, decorate the streets, the hero is coming home” when all I did was cower behind a fort of soil and barbed wires shaking barely breathing white knuckles tightly gripping the Garand as they circled the area like vultures searching for prey in a desert full of bones I lied to keep you from worrying about my safety because dear, no one is safe in the battlefield. I lied as I took my oath each word piercing my throat like swallowing needles as they pinned my uniform, the entire collection glistening in the morning light the clanging noise as I march like church bells ringing a haunting sound echoing through the hallway the weight of the carats is nothing compared to the weight of my guilt. I lied when I told you that I was a hero when I came home but son, the real heroes are six feet under the stone.
Raphael Luis J. Salise
What is the significance of this work to you?
These works nibble on my personal experiences, and are part of my growth process as an aspiring writer. These works may not be perfect, but I treat them as my little children, eventually finding a home in publication.
What is the significance of the form you chose for these pieces?
I try to stray away from the conventional forms of poetry, exploring the space of the page with free verse. For "1945," I thought of imitating the choppy-ness of a walkie-talkie, just as a soldier would when in war. For "I held you at gunpoint," I wanted to make the poem sound conversational––a persona talking to himself, who is also seemingly talking to someone as well.
What was your process for creating them?
I usually start with a memory, then build on it. "1945" is based on a personal experience, the feeling of emptiness and guilt when you win something but the victory isn't actually yours. "I held you at gunpoint" is based on a night with a friend, a memory we never brought up again. Personally, I think writing about my own experiences feels weird and awkward, but one advantage of this is that you get to easily articulate and refine the details, since you've actually experienced them firsthand.
Raphael Luis J. Salise is currently a sophomore at the University of the Philippines Mindanao under the BA English Creative Writing program. He likes to read poems, plays, and short stories by Filipino authors as he also aspires to someday become a successful writer like them.