The river chokes
on logs, fallen palm branches, and garbage;
on plastic and dead dreams from upstream.
From the top of the bridge, the stench of decay
assaults my nostrils, and my nose wrinkles in protest.
I watch the people below, who live in houses like matchboxes
by a stream of spilt gravy over rice,
smoke their cigarettes and drink their rhum
to numb their senses; the children play their tumba lata
and bathe in the old waterway fantasizing
clearer waters and calmer spirits.

We have fought for this,
for hours, standing by the streets,
raising placards and voices before the curtained windows
of city hall. The jeers
of passers-by have not fazed us,
for we grow more resilient, more angry
the more the river chokes.

From the top of the bridge,
the cars speed past me,
their master’s eyes set only on the road
to their destination
or the towers that kiss the clouds.
A plastic bag draws near as it dances to the gust
of the vehicles that must smell like “ocean breeze” within.

I can catch it before it wafts beyond the balustrade,
but my father’s voice echoes in my mind:
Let destiny take its course, son.
You are too young to understand,
but your time isn’t now.
You have no control over the world
or power to change it yet.
No power…

And I gaze at the bag as it descends
and becomes one with the tumors of the river.

By Liane Carlo Suelan

Liane Carlo R. Suelan is from Davao City. He is a Bachelor of Arts in Literature student at the University of the Philippines Visayas. His works can be found in Dagmay, and Novice Magazine: Chastity Issue. He was also a fellow at the 19th San Agustin Writers Workshop and the 2019 Davao Writers Workshop. He likes carabaos and seeks soup, especially sinigang, everywhere, in any weather.

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