Jeepney smoke seeps through the iron rail
to keep him bloodshot. He burrows in the neck
of his shirt, already coughing. A black sauna air
begins to funnel from the roaring exhaust. He feels
a soft burn as Jeepney smoke flows into his lungs.
Turning into a viscous tar that cakes the walls of his neck.
Yet, it all smells too familiar. Throughout all these years,
the Pasig River-scented smoke remains true.
True to all of its people. It is the calming scent
of nickel coins at the dive bars or tire swings near
lola’s house. He no longer sits in the Jeepney. He is home,
rummaging through lola’s bag, thumbing her rosario
and dipping his hands into a pool of crumpled
snowbear wrappers. He opens his eyes to a musing
glaucoma. This is home, where he woke up for the last
seventeen years to the humid rays of the morning sun,
people storming the divisoria streets, the Banaba chickens
cuckooing atop their roosts. This is home, where he sees
children splashing in puddles across slums. Street cats
walking on rooftops, tricycles bouncing on rugged sidewalks.
The Jeepney stops in the flurry of traffic. He steps off
and palms the gray ocher, trickling it through his fingers.
He now sees it all. The iron rail, the dangling banners of
sari-sari treats, the morning sun blending with Jeepney smoke.