This is the place we’ve always known —
the place that we’re intimately familiar with
the most,
like some parts of our bodies
that we love to caress
and explore,
in public, or in the very secret times
and places.

This is the place we’ve always known —
the place where we all grew.
We first lost ourselves
here —
all heart,
all mind,
all soul.
But we are unashamed.
You can look down on us if you want.
Your condescension is frequent, anyway.

I’m already used with all the smoke
that I find myself
Searching for the smell to inhale
when I’m far away from here.

I’m also used with the incessant slaps
of my own voice,
perpetually spitting places
like a repeated prayer,
acquainted profanities…
Kalumpang! Antipolo! Bayan!
Here, I’m in love with the people.
I love
their often too battered togs,
like mine
and the hovering scent of sweat
from twelve hours of heat and work.
There’s V-fresh and the bridge, thankfully,
and lots of candies to choose from.
Those are safe havens.
But of course we have to pay.
People there need money.

I was once so in love with this man.
He’s a call boy, too.
He’s wonderful,
and sweet
and he gave me the girl.
I hate him because
he ran away
after I gave birth.
I still see him
But certainly not here.
He still spits places,
but in Aurora.

I got up from the sack
because someone is calling
my name.
She’s running to me, sweating.
She’s holding
a small pail of water
and a rag,
her shorts jingling with coins.
That’s my girl.
My smart, strong
How much did she get?
I hope a lot.
I didn’t earn much.

I like to look at her
because she mirrors so much of me
except the eyes.
That narrow, oblong face
and pointed chin
is so much like mine.
But her eyes is deep-set,
like her disposition.
I look at her
And she averts her eyes
Like she always does.

Soon, she’ll know this place, too.
She’ll grow here.
She’ll lose herself here, too.
There’s no other places for her,
Is there?


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