New poetry by Jim Pascual Agustin: ‘Fire, the King Who is Called’

The Johannesburg Review of Books presents previously unpublished poetry by Jim Pascual Agustin.


Fire, the King Who is Called

I cannot keep quiet when someone pretends
to love me with a deceitful smile.

The King, born as the country
set itself on fire,
did not know his own father
who gave him his name.

He learned to move his hands
under the table and could see,
deprived of school early on,
years of war and imprisonment

were enough lessons. Yet even
before his years of accumulation,
he had loved perhaps more
than just conversation.

Love he did the many women
who fell for his hidden charm.
It could easily be said he speared them
not just one by one.

Though that is another story better left
for when the league, that throng
which clings to the tattered ends
of his underpants, is ready to listen.

He built a fortress, fortified
with a rooster and a harem of hens,
and a panic run for cattle. The King
had seen in a dream a mad beast

with teeth of flames that set
his thatched roofs ablaze. And so
his minister, the jester, fashioned
for him a crown: the snout

of a shower. He conjured a pool
no fire would dare touch.
‘This is how to protect a King
from the shadows of a dream,’

the minister announced humbly,
almost like a prayer
when no one else
was around and listening.


Previously unpublished, © Jim Pascual Agustin

  • Born in Manila, Jim Pascual Agustin moved to Cape Town in 1994 to be with the Canadian-born South African woman he met while on holiday in the Mountain Province in the Philippines during the monsoon season of the previous year. Agustin writes and translates poetry and fiction in Filipino and English. His work has appeared in Rhino, World Literature Today and Modern Poetry in Translation, among others. Wings of Smoke (The Onslaught Press, Oxford, 2017) is his eighth book of poetry.

The JRB Poetry Editor is Rustum Kozain

Header image: Christopher Burns/Unsplash

2 thoughts on “New poetry by Jim Pascual Agustin: ‘Fire, the King Who is Called’”

  1. Thank you, Rose, for the comment.

    Thank you, JRB, for publishing this. It now forms part of my book CROCODILES IN BELFAST which was first published in the Philippines by San Anselmo Publications in 2020
    In 2023, CROCODILES IN BELFAST is finally coming home in a South African edition published by Vhakololo Press.

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