The man next door who owns a garden

He touches
leaf after leaf
as if tracing old pages
wet with memory,
                alive with the thick perfume of secrets
The balete tree, the bamboo, the fortune plants-
            the children he couldn’t have,
the children he could have had
the children he has
They know him well
and respect his silence
They listen
and never talk back
They shudder at his touch
and yet,
let their lush leafy limbs
willingly break and fall
by the twist of his hands
             by the strike of his bolo

It is only fair. They say.
It is only fair. He says.