Plus Ultra and Other Poems
by Gilbert Luis R. Centina
Published by Centiramo Publishing
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Gilbert Centina was one of the víctims of the pandemic Covid 19. He died last May 1st. Today, August 15th, I've just received his last bilingual book of poems, Crevices/Recovecos (2020, 409 pages). Before he died, I received Plus Ultra (2019, 216 pages), sometime last January. In the latter, he dedicates poems to his friends and colleagues. One of the poems he entitles Edmundo Farolan Romero, aptly dedicated to me:
You're always catching planes, / Nights and days, days and nights, / Specific differences / In the curvature of space./ Your journey starts from your room/And ends up right there./You wake up in the morning/ Feeling renewed, strong and whole,/ Ready to embark/ On another adventure,/ Getting broken on the way,/ Like a childhood toy./ You must entertain yourself /So you stop and so you shop/ At your own peril./ Decisions, indecisions/ Occupy most of your time--/Unforgiving time/ That brings you back to your room/ To restore your broken self/ And be whole again.
I think he was reflecting my existentialist poems when he wrote this.
Another poem dedicated to a common friend, Guillermo Gomez Rivera, goes thus:
You are a Don Quixote/Champion of Hispanistas/Fighting black legends/In the clash of ideas/Versus daring ignorance/And prejudices...
The book starts off with the poem Plus Ultra:
Remember when you first flew/ Your kite of crepe and bamboo?/ Nobody cheered you./ You wished to play with beings,/ The visitors of your dreams,/ Riding the thick clouds./ From that uneventful launch,/ The kite became a space ship/ You gleefully rode./You finally got your wish/ /To meet invisible forms/ You saw in your dreams./ So real and so compelling,/ They urged you to go beyond/ The earthly domain/ And propel your boyhood kite/ Toward the vivifying sun,/ Source of light and life.
This book was as though he was saying goodbye for the last time to his 79 friends, dead and alive, to whom he dedicates his poems.
His last book, Crevices, published posthumously, was as though he was saying, "Wait a minute. I haven't finished dedicating my poems." Indeed, in this book, there are more than 200 people, including Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, to whom he dedicates his poems. To Ferdinand, he says:
Greatness does not come by chance,/Nor by luck, nor even/By personal design/...But sometimes something somewhere/Derails their path to greatness,/And comes oblivion...
To Imelda, he has this to say in the poem "Imeldific":
You were poor, wearing slippers,/But a knight in shining armor,/Changed your destiny./ Just like in fairy tales,/ You soon lived in a palace/Across the river.
It's interesting to note his last thoughts before dying in this last collection. He wrote a total of nine poetry books. I met him only once in New York when he was a parish priest there. But we were always in touch. I reviewed one of his poetry books, Diptych, three years ago.
© 2020 Ed Farolan