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Jeepney Ride

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Jeepney Ride

Packed like sardines
inside a jeepney*—
Too full,
with a jeepney strike going on.

mother and child ride along.

Greasy, dirty, malnourished…
The woman holds a can—
a makeshift drum.
Little boy hands out envelopes,
he looks like he's 3 years old,
he's most likely 6.

Woman beats her drum,
nobody listens
chatter drowning out the rhythm…
Invisible ears to go with
invisible envelopes

His head touches my legs,
dissipating heat—
an indicator of how long
he's been under the sun and smog
The thought chills me…

He stares at my sister's shopping bags
with searing eyes…
Windows that I can’t bear to look into,
afraid to see my reflection of clouded guilt and frustration

I shake my head, no food to share
but my hands reach out to his,
to give him some money.
My sister remembers a bottle of iced tea, 
and hands it to him.

He has a hard time opening it,
and asks for help from the school girls…
Invisible again.

I reach out and get the bottle from him
Temporary refreshment
for a body that is parched,
for a soul who is thirsty for so much more.

I cannot help but gulp in guilty air.

He sits on the aisle,
savoring the tea
as his mother thumps on the can.

The little boy retrieves envelopes, all empty—
as hollow as the sound of the beating drum.

What do you do,
what can you do?

The jeepney stops.
They alight from it...
The mother looks back 
and says, "Salamat.*"
It goes straight to my heart.

Her eyes move me most—
one eye is cloudy, grayed out,
perhaps a manifestation
of the storms in her life?

That single word seared through me,
and I felt how much she meant it…

Her thank you
made me want to give so much more,
to call out to her and give whatever I had at the moment
but they are gone...
Lost in a crowd of faceless people,
and I myself want to get lost,
hide my face in shame…

What can you do?

--For  Debbie’s Tell Me a Story contest…

*jeepney—is  a public transportation vehicle here
*Salamat is “Thank You” 

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  1. Date: 4/29/2013 1:54:00 PM
    And you did what you could...that's what's important...I'm faving this one.

  1. Date: 4/29/2013 1:52:00 PM
    Gotta tell you a quick a train station in the middle of nowhere close to Canton, China. I watched these little girls stare at my brother and giggle. He squatted down and held a piece of candy out for each. They ran up, grabbed the candy, and stroked his hair...which was long and blonde. I realized they'd never seen blonde hair before. Your poem made me think of these things again. I think I'll write a few poems on some of the experiences I had there. Thanks Nikko!

  1. Date: 4/29/2013 1:48:00 PM
    Ah, so you are an islander. And no, I think it's more than your name that intruigs me. This poem here really speaks to me. I love it. I worked with the homeless here for several years. Also, I spent time on a few occansions in China...from Hong the way to Beijing...and lots in between. The poverty in many of those places was so hard to see and I nearly worked myself to death trying to help.

  1. Date: 1/26/2012 5:39:00 PM
    Still waiting for a new poem, sweetie. CAn you think of any of yours I've not seen? well, I'm going to the gym soon but don't think I will finish my comments for the day yet. I am thinking of seeing the dollar show at 10 p.m!!! Luv, Andrea

  1. Date: 1/18/2012 10:20:00 PM
    Vivid description of the jeep back there :) I remember some similar experience and just found this piece describe my same emotions when I first rode a jeepney before I left. Wonderful poem.

  1. Date: 1/11/2012 2:17:00 PM
    Wow, what a powerful and heartfelt story so wonderfully and beautifully told. You just know that the writer of this narrative has a heart of gold and, a way with words. The only thing I can think to say to you to show how much I appreciate you sharing this writing with us is ... salamat.

  1. Date: 1/11/2012 10:27:00 AM
    ok I followed great instructions from u Nikko.. got to the part to crop and post and got a system error each time.. soup mailed PS but nno reply yet.. I printed out your comment so helpful and tried several times but no dice.. oh.. what is a 'sweetheart' to do????

  1. Date: 1/10/2012 6:23:00 AM
    congratulations on your win! this is a fantasticly sad story. you really made me feel like I was there and experiencing it with you. so sad...

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 10:56:00 PM
    Congratulation on your superb win, my friend. Loved and enjoyed your nice one. bl

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 10:12:00 PM
    Congratulations on your great write. Best regards, Jon

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 9:21:00 PM
    Nikko, did this really happen?? I know how you like to make stuff up, but it seems so REAL. This is awesome, Nikko .It's obvious I Have missed a lot but surely you entered this before my computer broke on me? A BIG congratulations. I am reading some great winners!!

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 2:46:00 PM
    Sorry - I'm getting confused over contests here - I loved your contest with Andrea : )

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 2:45:00 PM
    This is such a tender piece, Nikko. And I see it was a winner - many congrats on your wins, my friend, and thanks very much - I loved your contest with Susan : )

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 8:12:00 AM
    You were a Mother Tereasa for that little guy...just for that one moment...the angels as an audience were applauding your generosity. I really appreciated your tender thots put to poetry here, Nikko. Precious write. Gwendolen

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 6:37:00 AM
    Congratulations on you win in Debbie Guzzi's contest Nikko. Love, Carol

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 12:35:00 AM
    i see this every day... sakit, no??.. greeeat stuff, nikks... congrats on your fine win! ang hirap ng contest nyo po, lol... hope i made sense; fatay! hahaha:) huggs!

  1. Date: 1/9/2012 12:04:00 AM
    It is very sad Nikko but panhandling is worldwide even in developed countries. There's not much we can do. The more we give to them, the more they would beg. Sa Pilipinas naiintindihan ko kung bakit, pero dito sa US hind ko maintindihan. I love your story, it brings me back to my Manila years! Congrats on your win. Meaningful piece. Thanks for reading my poem Narrative... The answer to your question? I will live it up to you. Love Dalila

  1. Date: 1/8/2012 10:55:00 PM
    What a wonderful tale Nikko. Congratulations on your win.

  1. Date: 1/8/2012 9:21:00 PM

  1. Date: 1/8/2012 9:02:00 PM
    Congrats. Nikko on your special winning poem. love,vie