"The city just fucking smelled of cockroaches. There's no sewage system in Manila, and people have nothing there. People with, like, no arms, no legs, no eyes, no teeth.? Rats were everywhere...a ghastly and weird city." Claire Danes, in an interview with Premiere Magazine

by R. Zamora Linmark 
Dear Claire,
It is ghastly indeed: this city
Crowded with cockroaches and people
Who walk without legs, drive long
Chrome-plated coffins without arms,
And stare imperiously at you
Without eyes. Not to mention
Squatters sleeping on stilts,
Island panhandlers, again without arms
And legs, highway beggars,
Again without eyes and hair,
And sidewalk dwellers whose walls
Are painted with huge signs
Reminding people not to dump trash,
Piss, shit. By the way,
How was San Francisco? Are you now
Back in the East, Boston or Manhattan,
That is? I am forever still in Manila,
Writing you with much concern
Because the City Mayor has called
An emergency meeting to ban
The showing of all your movies,
Including "Les Miserables." The papers
And glossy fashion magazines are
Christening you "UNKNOWN," "UNCOUTH,"
Has it that Brooke Shields is here too,
Gambling at Heritage Casino on Roxas
Boulevard with fishermen and politicians.
Is it true? Is she with Andre?
Are they still together? But
What you said about this city
Of roaches and missing extremities
Are bold impressions I cannot hold
Against you, for first-time travelers
From First World Countries all undergo
Cultural seizures here; tics
Of the mind responsible for setting
Off a series of generalizations
And assumptions about bugs,
Blindness, and amputation. Not
Excluded from this list are Filipinos
In America, like cousin Jennifer
From Boston, Tito Bert in Wichita,
And Tita Joan in Beverly Hills. Claire,
I would like to invite you back
To Manila. Make another movie.
A romantic comedy, and not one filmed
In a psycho ward. Do it with Matt, Damon
Or MacCounaughey or Broderick, but
Preferably Dillon. Or why not
Matt Mendoza, Manila's own
Achy-breaky heartthrob? And bring
With you, once more, your dollars,
Your talent, and this time,
Crutches, and roach spray.

R. Zamora Linmark is the author of Rolling the R's, an experimental novel set in a small 1970's Hawaiian community. Born in Manila and was educated in Honolulu, Linmark's work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including the Best Gay American Fiction of 1997 and Charlie Chan Is Dead. He has finished his second novel, Leche, and is now working on a third novel.

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