steeps itself in grimy floodwaters
where shirtless kids splash and scream
and rusty buses churn a wake that laps
black flotsam at shacks’ doors. They sell
cell phone cases and illegagl DVD. Veggies
are ripe and all here sits pungent of fish
and everything fried in oil far too old.
It’s a place of too much smoke
and too few smiles. Dirt too caked
and hope too withered.
Cats are sleek and chubby,
fishing fish heads and fish guts
from street gutters, chewing
amid the din.
Above, across the bay and reflected
in the flood now rippling mad from
childhood splashes, looms the many stories
of luxury waterfront living—tiny
spaces trapping men like ants crawling
up and down and up and down and out
in white collars into the town on motorbikes or
taxis—home to get their veggies
in supermarkets with slick tile floors
and fluorescent lights.
Muara Angke’s shops squat low
in the shadow, low in the floodwater.
And as the man with a thin mustache
scoops thin noodles into his tired jaws,
he watches children squeal in bowls
of laughter, and keep splashing.
They will learn, soon enough, why
men don’t smile,
while the luxury waterfront housing looms across the bay.