Literary

Poverty on a jeepney ride

By Sheila Mañalac, EIC|

She’s 16 and pregnant, with her two sons on each side.

She’s got her worn-out bag around her shoulders, her gaze afar.

Her eyes filled with sadness, looking out from the narrow window of the jeep.

She’s about to explode, she’s almost due.

She’s pregnant with her third child, and she’s only 16.

With Love written all over her undersized shirt,

Her eyes are all that’s left of her youth.

Her gaze, looking past the busy streets, the taunts of shouting ‘barkers’

The hope that comes with youth, still lingers

Her children cling on her arms

She doesn’t complain, she doesn’t let go

She plants a kiss on their foreheads

She caresses her bulging stomach

The grease on her skin

The tangles of her hair

Those eyes that reflected her innocence, everything’s a wonder

There’s the hope of the future.

She’s pregnant with her third child, and she’s only 16.

He’s pale and thin, and he’s pushing.

His wooden cart that carried that huge pot-full of steamed corn.

Oh, hot corn.

Not as hot as soft-porn.

Those may be the thoughts that run through his head as his frail body continues to push.

Push the corn, sell the corn.

He’s pretty with blue eye make-up on.

Two kids, half naked

Basking in the sun

Sniffing rugby like bubble gum

Fragrant candies that erases the past

Eliminates hunger

Fills their empty pockets, where they keep all their stash

One looks at the other,

They laugh

They smile

Oh, the life they enjoy

No ambition or hope

At noon and out of school

Two boys, probably 12

Roam the streets of Manila

Sniffing rugby like rose buds

Be scared, be prepared

They’re filthy, they steal

They are no good, they are the youth

Manila by day

The kids fly away

They sit on the mayor’s face

Literally – his photo from the latest campaign

Laws and politicos, no difference made

Nothing but numbers in their accounts

While children suffer, everyone in hunger

Digging on trash

Living on concrete floor

Nothing to eat

Nowhere to live

No decent clothes

No education

No future

Hold your thumb higher, dear Mayor

Stick it up your ass while you’re at it.

Do it.

For the kids sniffing rugby like citrus soap

For folks who grew old,

The third generation of their illiterate dynasty

While you send your son to Harvard

Inequality is commonality

Apathy is normality

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