Nothing runs up the spine of the farmer who finds his skull, fearlessly
shoveling away rocks, mining out an archipelago, a treasure
of bones.
I would arrive to a crowd of children laughing at his smallness. How fragile, how
cute. They’ve stolen a finger bone, carved it into a whistle, which when
summons extinct birds, dries their lips. I’m thrilled at the miracle of preservation,
intact, unlike other graves in this plot of land
once known
as the Heroes’ Cemetery, corpses fully reclaimed by heaven. Grit and gristle
loved by soil. Like saints who leave behind relics—
St. Anthony’s
tongue, St. Bernadette’s incorrupt body, his perfect remains.
Following my manuals, I would gently brush around him, painstakingly, carefully
I will not listen to the ache of my back or the butterflies tearing their wings
in my stomach. The insects here have forgiven, taken his flesh for their own,
with loud colors, venomous. Didn’t want to be stung, I crush a few, pour alcohol
into anthills. Soon he’ll be free, ready for flight back home. Place him in an urn, call him
forge a death certificate, hope the inspector would be too tired to notice the body wasn’t ashen but whole, maybe slip a few thousands to overlook his hardness on the x-ray.
Too precious
for the overhead compartment or legroom, I’ll hold him on my lap, fragile
cargo, convincing flight stewardesses that he’s my father,
he’s afraid
of plane rides. Can’t be alone. Through turbulence I’ll keep us steady, quiet his rattle.
Back in the lab, I will inspect him more closely, his teeth, omnivorous, no proof of
I’ll examine the tooth wear and pulp, excited to know the common diet
long ago. This man will represent his own kind like Callao Man, Java Man, Lucy,
for a gone species, scraps of a civilization. I’ll label him the Filipino,
ask the lab to create a 3D model of him, more interactive, engaging. I wonder what
material they would use to reconstruct his eyes. His fists. How much kindness would be added
to make his grip child-friendly, authentic? Nontoxic material, in case they’ll bite
the hand
meant for foreheads. Mano po. Cozy, fatherly, body temperature. And museums will outbid
each other for him, many will flock and gaze their plunder’s worth for obvious signs of
Many will pass by, bored, won’t remember his name. A few, who upon seeing light
warm his glass case, would shiver, as if something forgotten inside them