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I take a jewel from a junk-shop tray

And I wish I had a love to buy it for.

Nothing I choose will make you turn my way

Nothing I give will make you love me more.

I know that I've embarrassed you too long

And I'm ashamed to linger at your door.

Whatever I embark on will be wrong

Nothing I do will make you love me more.

I cannot work. I cannot read or write.

How can I frame a letter to implore.

Eloquence is a lie. The truth is trite.

Nothing I say will make you love me more.

So I replace the jewel in the tray

And laughingly pretend I'm far too poor.

Nothing I give, nothing I do or say,

Nothing I am will make you love me more.

The Milkfish Gatherers

The sea sounds insincere

Giving and taking with one hand.

It stopped a river here last month

Filling its mouth with sand.

They drag the shallows for the milkfish fry—

Two eyes on a glass noodle, nothing more.

Roused by his viligant young wife

The drowsy stevedore

Comes running barefoot past the swamp

To meet a load of wood.

The yellow peaked cap, the patched pink shorts

Seem to be all his worldly goods.

The nipa booths along the coast

Protect the milkfish gatherers’ rights.

Nothing goes unobserved. My good custodian

Sprawls in the deckchair through the night.

Take care, he says, take care—

Not everybody is a friend.

And so he makes my life more private still—

A privacy on which he will attend.