MUSEUM OF ABSENCES by LUIS H. FRANCIAYVONNE HORTILLO reviews
Museum of Absences by Luis H. Francia
(University of the Philippines Press and Meritage Press, 2004)
[Review first printed in Hyphen, Issue 9, 2006. Contributing Books Editor: Lisa Ko.]
The Poetry of Journalism
Much journalism has been published, posted and broadcast about Ground Zero in New York City. That work has its own poetry, drowned in the stories of writers and photographers on the scene, the elementary school nearby, the church across the street -- the chaos emerging after the settling of dust and debries.
Nations are formed after wars, and their aftermath is always told by residents securely rooted to the nation involved. New York City-based Luis H. Francia is one such writer, only he also is rooted in the Philippines, a country that takes 24 hours to travel by plane from the U.S.
In Museum of Absences, Francia writes from the very familiar space occupied by immigrants and lost souls, the space of the exile. In this collection, Francia is an exile writing of a war in his new residence.
In this house each death has a double
Each blast, an echo
It will not hold, no matter how
many rooms, all our names
Francia's new residence, newly-ravaged, is peopled and built by "Mongol, Aztec, Berber, Cherokee, Zulu, Zuni, Semite, Aborigine, Malay, Han, Viking," minorities and strangers who had built the great New York City.
News reports broadcast the faces of the team of terrorists who flew planes into U.S. landmarks, and one realizes how they were able to freely roam Francia's new residence -- they blended in. This is why the Patriot Act was passed -- this is why family and friends could not send off their beloved all the way to the airport gate. To leaders and authorities removed from the streets, the next terrorist could be any one of us.
Francia does not lament. In language deep and furious like the Amazon, he protests current ways of thinking that perpetuate fear. The very virtue of immigration is courage and victory -- one escapes a war-ravage land or circumstance, and emerges victorious. In a nation built by immigrants, this virtue has been all but forgotten in the mainstream rhetoric of war and freedom. Francia offers otherwise.
Yvonne Hortillo is an editorial assistant for The Associated Press. She has never owned a business card in her life. She has crossed the Chicago River countless times, and is fated to cross it untold times more. She adores truth in all forms.