Icarus in Manila

“I like to imagine Icarus, having fallen, having lost his wings, swimming to shore, crawling up the rocks, finding his new life, no longer son of the great Daedalus, but an anonymous man, lost, far from home, ordinary but alive.” ~ Kazim Ali, The Silver Road

Something about a war, about the gods
fighting for ascendancy; how bits

of rock they threw were pulverized
and landed in the waters to make

these islands. Everything seethes
like noonday heat, all day into night.

Here in the city, I walk with others
through labyrinthine streets, careful

to avoid run-ins with police, trying
to blend in. Wading ashore I must

have looked like a straggler; or one
of those cats slick with sewer grime,

slinking through the alleys. Some days
I help a ragtag group of children sort

through dump yard piles of metal;
or at dawn in the market, unload

baskets of produce from trucks.
Fear is one of the cheapest

commodities— each day yields
a new tally of bodies felled

by masked gunmen, assassins
for hire. In this world, target

could mean anything including
a child or grandmother or school-

boy. There is a morgue that ran out
of space for corpses: they had to pile them

into a drained swimming pool. Even a bull
waiting in its lair could not be this cruel.


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