Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Sad Art of Making Paper

The Sad Art of Making Paper

By Ramón C. Sunico

In the morning, while the mist tries
to wind its way out of a forest
of birdcalls, the mockingbirds
imitate the sound of scythes
being honed.

It is time
for the women to harvest
grass for the papermakers,
time to tug at grass as lush
as their hair and tear
the leaves from the arms
of the mulberry trees.

So begins their pursuit
of beauty: leaves tumble
into barrels of water and lye,
the green tears of plants
steamed to the clarity of human tears.

Then the same women take up
their pestles and pound the landscape
into pulp. Mashing daylight and daydreams
into a pale cold mass.

Only then will the men come to drown
their fruits in water, dispersing
the remnants of plants and the aches
of tired white arms.

And having dispersed them, they redeem
with their fine-meshed nets the tissue
of emptiness we now call paper.

It is this paper that captures
the Japanese moonlight. The corpse
of dead leaves on which Basho writes
about the fleetingness of beauty
and the dewdrop world.

By rivers, the monks paint
the soul of mulberry trees
on leaves that have forgotten
the arms from which they were torn.

To love beauty is to despair and so
the sword makers remind us by
etching chrysanthemums on their blades.


Ramón C. Sunico manages Cacho Publishing House. A grant for a Praktikum in Verlagswesen allowed him to work at three publishing houses in Germany, where he designed, printed, and bound his first book of poetry, The Secret of Graphite: Poems in 2 Tongues. A bilingual writer (English and Tagalog), he has two books of poetry and three for children. He has won many honors and awards, including the Palanca, the Ateneo Henry Lee Irwin chair, and the Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas.

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