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
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
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.

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