Muara Angke

Muara Angke


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.


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