Monday, April 18, 2022


The on-going Russia-Ukraine War is not just a heinous invasion by Vladimir Putin's administration but an existential moment in human history. The world's response to Russia's invasion will have a long-lasting effect in, at a minimum, determining whether the world regresses on how it respects each country's national sovereignty and how it conducts war. The significance of Russia's invasion, thus, goes beyond the Russian/Ukrainian territories and affects the rest of the world. This means the war-based discourse must be, as it already is, more far-reaching than the battle on land and air--the war's discourse also must unfold on the cultural terrain to show a global protest against actions as those by Putin. In this cultural terrain, Filipino poets are also active as concerned members of the human race. The right image is a book cover to a miniature book-based fundraiser for the Ukrainian people, about which more information is available HERE.

The Halo-Halo Review also thanks the following poets for their poem-contributions to this modest but nonetheless significant project:


Acts of War” by Aileen Cassinetto

“February” by Luisa A. Igloria

“What the Poets Are Saying About the War” by Luisa A. Igloria


“KILL RATE & KITTENS” by Marne Kilates

“Wife of Russian Soldier tells him, ‘You go there, rape Ukrainian women, but use condoms!’” by Eileen R. Tabios

“Shrapnel” by Alfred A. Yuson





By Cynthia Buiza


Right at this moment, heavy artillery 

is battering a country far away from here, 

as the blue of the sky meets the surface 

of the sea in Sitio Tambac.


Drones made in Russia hover equally over the dying 

and those cocking live ammunition for a kill. 

My tears of sympathy, puny and shrill.


Pooled at my ankle is a school of rabbit fish so thick they 

are darkness in motion. Headed for sea grass, 

they darken the path they take. 

I move away. Life, a bullet in motion.


I try to run away but you always catch me. 

Because I am not here to flee but to see clearly. 

This beauty neither consoles nor deceives. It instructs.


Before long, I will leave. Back to a place of lesser safety. 

Where a different battle is raging. War above us and below. 

Darkness hovering. 


Remember this day when you go, 

a voice tells me. Remember the courage 

It takes to step away. 

So that you can return.







Acts of War

By Aileen Cassinetto


And when they bombed other people’s houses, I looked for an old article where someone in Foreign Affairs addressed the public in verse. She said, “We, too, will speak in alley slang.” She said, “We speak with piety, ‘light the flame!’” I wasn’t the only one to think how it evoked that country’s foreign policy–all riddle and mystery. And when they bombed other people’s houses again, I wrote a poem about sunflowers, how I planted seeds twelve inches apart thinking that when they blossomed, how less violent it would be to cut them with the flower heads just opened above some twenty inches of stem. 


*First line from Ilya Kaminsky's "We Lived Happily During the War" 








By Luisa A. Igloria

I have felt the deepening edge of days
and their companion nights falling in step

On the radio, we heard the voices of thirteen soldiers 
before they paid with their lives for refusing to surrender

Everything I've looked at since yesterday has been through
the idea of a fistful of seeds buried deep in a pocket

We too will lie down and wherever we are, bodies 
could turn into flowers without need of permission

Names are so beautiful said in their first tongues
Everywhere, their sounds fill shelters and trains

They should be heard like bells or prayers,
outside in a square filled with sunlight and trees






What the Poets are Saying About the War 

(an imperfect cento)

By Luisa A. Igloria


~ while attending the "Voices for Ukraine" virtual reading organized by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach and Olga Livshin, 01 March 2022 


Any country is an easy target 


Stop who goes there 


The shovel is making a hole in the gravedigger 


Now is a time of hybrid war 


The tail is wagging the dog 


Lord have mercy on us 


And on earth more war 


Be not troubled, soldier, nightingales 


Slender of neck, slight of throat 


You who have robbed us blind 


One hit and no more void to fill 


The ship of the universe 


A ship with hundreds of thousands of cannons on board 


The graves will open right up 


And the tanks rumbled as armored tractors down the road 


In a glorious and frightening time 


Each one shall be a hero 


The farther into battle the fewer heroes left behind 


Cinders rise with the earth 


Darkness invisible 


As ice turns to water 


Evil is not a big lie 


It's small shards resembling truth 


Evil can't lead, it lures 


Burn down to the ground and rise up as smoke


Once on a train without warning 


I remembered it all 


The blue sea 


My friend's fishing boat 


My friends are held hostage and I can't reach them 


There is no poetry about war 


Just decomposition 


Sunflowers dip their heads in the field 


I have gotten so very old 


It's a time to sing songs 


Always a good time for defense 


Our heads are dusted with the ash of the first snow 


To hold a needle of silence in your mouth 


To whimper while drowning 


To hold the water of a language on your tongue 


To mend things that are still useful 


In these parts it's considered unnatural if war doesn't course through the pipes 


In the square across the way kids play at war 


She danced since evenings were still warm 


She danced because she wanted to turn back 


It's better to remember with the body 


A wrist where all the blood had gathered 


Another convoy was right behind us 


Perfectly round with a hole in the middle 


Which war zone? 


No one has heard of here 


Used to making a meal out of nothing 


So it goes 


Bargaining with hope 


Let me live at least through mid-day 


So white this explosion, she says 


So quiet 


We got surrounded 


I was walking with a spare pair of underwear in my pocket 


I don't believe it 


They called our killers police 


Russian warship go fuck yourself 


You choose when to shift gears








By Marne Kilates


Who brought me here

To the seafront off Kapuntukan Hill

To show me the eternal shape

Of Mayon while the sun glinted on Albay Gulf

With a foreboding that was never revealed?


O divine seer that leads me by the hand

To the edges of the world to either

Spread my wings or let me drop

Like a dead log from the precipice

Why ask me to save the world at all?


Who made the monarch butterfly

Alight on a tree branch in Mexico

And flap its wings to stir

A tsunami and typhoon at the Pacific

On the other side of the world?


Who showed me the world in a grain sand

And beauty in a wild flower

Who taught me to slice the stone

And glimpse the twinkle of galaxy within?


Daily the news shows me the carnage of war

In Ukraine while our homegrown tyrant

And admirer of the Insane Leader

That started it all plays dumb and coy.


And I dream of the butterfly wing dreaming

The dreamer who dreams of the butterfly wing.

Who dreams the dreamer of the dream?


Who commanded Noah to build the Ark

And leave it on a ridge on Mt. Ararat

As the Flood subsided and the dove 

Brought back a branch of olive?


The world turns and the planet tilts

The ice calves from the Arctic glacier

The volcanoes gurgle fire as the seas heave

And the continents shift and the herons return

And the heliotropes turn to follow the sun


Who will buy this wonderful morning

Who will claim this vision of Baguio 

Studded with diamonds in the dusk

From the vantage point of Mirador Hill?


Who is she that cometh forth 

Fair as the sun terrible as an army

Set in battle array?


Come writer and poets of the land

Let us now criticize what we fully understand

Let us arise and save this world 

Which is the only one we have


Let us awake and finally give shape

To the memory―the story, the art, the wisdom,

The poem―that keeps insisting to be written

Rising like a malevolent mist 

From the roots of our hair







By Marne Kilates


We have new kittens and we marvel

At their colors and stripes and sometimes

Worry that they may not be nursing well

Or their mother, an orange charmer,

Might not be feeding them well enough,

And so we have vitamin-enriched cat food

At the ready, to supplement the mother’s milk. 


On YouTube and BBC, on CNN and CBS,

And the countless other networks,

With their cameras and long lenses and mics 

Trained on Ukraine, they are counting

The kill rate and accuracy of guided missiles 

And drones, checking and re-checking 

Whether the Moskva was sunk by torpedo 

Or artillery, or, as Russia claims, by bad weather… 


Who worries about nuclear deployment?

Or that there were children and pregnant women

At the basement shelter of a theater in Lviv?

Or that a grandmother was walking her dog

In the bright morning in a suburb of Kyiv?

Not the Russians or their Mad Leader but only

The World Central Kitchen and the Doctors

Without Borders as they rush to the wounded

Or keep the hot meals flowing from the soup kitchen.


We keep our Good Friday rituals on the bloodied 

Backs of our flagellant sinners. We observe our

Ayuno y abstinencia as we listen to the Seven Last Words.

We pray for relief from the pandemic quarantine―

And watch over our kittens and pets play

In the garden. We light the Paschal Candle and

Pray as the Angel passes over our households,

Amid visions of a world burning: The Peace we can leave

Is only when we excise the evil of tyranny in our midst.






“Wife of Russian Soldier tells him, ‘You go there, 

rape Ukrainian women, but use condoms!’”

By Eileen R. Tabios


is this morning’s headline

(SOFREP, April 20, 2022)—


I regurgitated a word

I never wished to see in a poem—

I “regurgitated”

my breakfast of coffee

and left-over pork belly

adobo still superb

because its vinegar

had been added not stirred

Details matter—soldiers 
the women unable 
to leave

the cities where the golden

faces of sunflowers

stared at the sky as they

were shelled into gray—

Details matter—soldiers 

the elderly
those too sick to move
the ones who refused
to leave 

to care for the elderly 
or those too sick to move

It’s an old story 
to become cliché—

cliches exist
when they are overused 
until they lose meaning

But rape remains 

as Balzac’s “frosty morning in Autumn”

as Browning’s “hedge-rose-cup there”

as Anonymous’ “young head of lettuce”

as Coleridge’s “sea-born Cythera”

as Chaucer’s “faucon comen out of mewe”



especially when 

one story introduces

a wife’s sordid support—


Another headline—

Another old story:

“Female Betrayal: 3 reasons

Women Hurt Other Women”






Envious for more power

Competition for territory

Self-Worth irrelevant


Details matter—Swinburne

likened the “gray”

of a sunflower’s new mask 

to “a flower ruined”

Cobb to a “cow’s breath

on a frosty morning”

Barham to a “badger”

Shakespeare to “glass”

Longfellow to “a shield

embossed in silver”


Details matter—the pork

belly was cut

into two-inch pieces

then marinated overnight

with soy sauce, garlic

sugar and peppercorns


After it was cooked

for one-and-a-half hours

to make the pork tender

but not falling apart


the adobo stew was served

over something that

should be the topic

of this poem: jasmine rice

whose delicate floral

and buttery scent

warrants poetry


and whose bodies evoke

miniature three-quarter moons


that remind us 

of a hay(na)ku poem:



only about
the gorgeous moon








By Alfred A. Yuson

Too old to flee 

a besieged city. 


I will just wait

for the shrapnel

to find me. 

As they had done

in the past, 

searing my skin

where I had least

expected it to be 

molested, coming

down from the skies 

of failed loves

and dim hopes 

for the peace

of breathing, 

simply, without 

menace in mind.

Now they may come

as metal fragments 

with the finality 

of no pain. 

Let me glory

in the moments 

of distance 

from fated reality. 


There in that 

unsure span 

of further life 

the question 

of a correct 


could remain 


So let me glory 

in the certainty 

of days and dates 

in rows of squares 

that the last blast 

renders mute 

to my very old eyes.




About the Poets:


Cynthia Buiza lives in Los Angeles and runs a non-profit helping immigrants and refugees in California. She is also a California State Commissioner. Her poems and essays have appeared in Ani, The Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday Magazine, Our Own Voice, Tayo Magazine, Migozine, Chopstick Alley, Halo Halo Review, and Paloma Press anthology collections and other anthologies in the U.S.


Aileen Cassinetto is an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow and the Poet Laureate of San Mateo County. She is the founder of Paloma Press and the author of two poetry collections and three chapbooks. Her work has appeared in POETRY magazine, Marsh Hawk Press ReviewFellowship Magazine, and Moria, among others. She received a Special Congressional Recognition and was appointed Commissioner on the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women in 2021. She is a 2022 Metro Film and Arts Foundation grantee.


Luisa A. Igloria is originally from Baguio City in the Philippines. She is the author of 14 books of poetry and 4 chapbooks. In July 2020, Governor Ralph Northam appointed her as the 20th POET LAUREATE of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In April, she was one of 23 Poet Laureate recipients nationwide of a 2021 Poet Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. She has four daughters and now makes her home in Virginia with most of her family. She is a Louis I. Jaffe Professor of Creative Writing and English, and from 2009-2015 was Director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. In the Spring Term 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Visiting Writer in Residence at Washington & Lee University. More information is at


Marne Kilates is an award-winning poet, freelance writer, editor, and translator. He has published six books of poetry and translated works by leading Filipino poets such as National Artists Rio Alma, Bienvenido Lumbera, and Lazaro Francisco. He has won the Philippines’ Palanca Memorial Awards, the National Book Awards, and the SEA Write Award given by the Thai royalty.  His works maybe accessed at his website, Marneskripts, at


Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. In 2022 she released/will release the poem-length miniature book on Ukraine, SUNFLOWERS BECAME  GRAY, BUT; the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels; and her second French book, Double Take (trans. Fanny Garin). Her 2021 books include her first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times and first French book La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery). Her award-winning body of work includes inventions of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form; the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity; and the Flooid poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed prior to the writing of a poem. Translated into 11 languages, she's also edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information is at


Alfred "Krip" A. Yuson has authored over 30 titles, with his first novel, Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe, currently being translated into Arabic. He also writes regular literary and arts reviews for the national broadsheet, The Philippine Star



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