Poor Poems

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“What does it mean to be poor, abuelo?”—A good question.

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1. Balut Dump, Tondo
Dawn is pale on these waifs’ faces,
Sun rays striking their thin backs.
The colour of refuse here is bright:
Worms sepia, cans gooey, faeces black.
A country will rise from excreta.

2. At Retiro St., Thinking about Joining the Movement
Rain coming through this window is warm
Slithering from hot tin gutters;
Bullet-hot roofs sizzle in the rain,
Bloated foetuses float in city waters.
“The baby’s wet! Plug the roof hole, Lakay!”*
(*Ilocano for Husband.)

3. At Vinzons Hall with Tera Atbp.
Windows close storms out of houses here.
Lust within dribbling gumlike on sheets
Hallowed by suffrage and vote.
Harsh rain breaks molave branches,
Window panes, other things. A storm looms.

4. From His Letter to Vi: Mene, Phares
“…the child’s body is covered with flies,
sores oozing with pus. The next man shoos him
from the queue: Lintik ka, aaah! Hahawaan mo**
pa yata ako, aaah! Mabaho ka pa sa bigas. “iz d’yan!.”
The flies are jolted off their feast.
(**Damn you! You will infect me, too, huh?
You stink like this rice! Get the hell out of here!)

5. At Senator Tanada’s Office Toilet
Ears stop listening involuntarily
When one begins relieving
The devil-may-care-wot in toilets
Built for senators who smile and smile…
In Tondo’s outhouses, I’d be praying.

6. Rebel Shot – News the Morning After
“Your plate will be there, Lakay,
where it will always be,
your side of the dulang,*
your slippers beneath the bed
where, waiting, our child asleep, I shall be.”

(*Low table used by squatting on the mud floor)

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