Green Scarab Beetle, Chafer Beetle

"Mama, mama namamangka,
Pasakayin yaring bata;
Pagdating sa Maynila,
Ipagpalit sa manika."

["Mister, Mister boatman,
Give the child a ride;
When you get to Manila,
Trade her in for a doll."]

~ From "Sitsiritsit, Alibangbang"
("Sitsiritsit, Butterfly;" Filipino folk song)

Green scarab beetle, chafer beetle,
bearer of the soul's smallest particles
encased in dung: at night I hear you

scrabbling through the roots of cane
and corn, through clumps of rice
seeded like moist asterisks across

the fields. The men and women
who labor in the sun have so many
mouths to feed. In their village,

they trade grain for fish and molasses,
batteries for the radio which brings
news of gunfire in the hills, storms

bearing down like a threshing wheel
on all they've done. Horse and water
buffalo wear their tethers,

sometimes standing still, sometimes
drawing the same circles in the dust.
For anyone who says children

are worth whatever sacrifice the gods
might demand, another will say life
is cheap: as easily made as taken.

The smallest child can push a wooden
cart across the city, combing through
trash for scraps to sell.

The smallest child carries a toddler
on her hip: they weave through evening
traffic with outstretched palms.

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