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.