Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

Santo Tomas
     Santo Tomas University in Manila was used by the Japanese army
     as an internment camp for Allied civilians during World War II.

Enter the walled city—concrete barricades and iron bars
progress from keeping out to keeping in,

this landscaped gem of higher learning transformed
by rows of stalls and mud-path streets

to villages of shanties named Glamorville,
Jerkville, Froggy Bottom, Over Yonder.

This slum differs by design: an army contains you,
citizens with your new, small powers. Complicit

or brave. Businesses erupt on need, lead
to black market loans and deals.

What can you pay for a cot, an extra allotment
of sugar, milk for your child, soap, shoes, booze,

a cigarette, a cup, a spoon, a pass to leave?
What surgeries would you endure, lies

would you weave, who would you deceive for hunger
to be assuaged, for temporary freedoms?

Will you be the snitch, the spy, the liar? Fight
over the inches of real estate, a place in line,

in a world where the word mine begins to rot, and still,
every day someone finds a new venture, makes way

for dealing and doling, falls to theft, the petty crimes
of moonshine, of washing a dish

in the bathroom sink rather than waiting in long lines.
Will you clap when the loudspeakers boom

offenses and incarcerations, punishing aloud
this human desire to obtain, accumulate, survive?  end