Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

Eileen R. Tabios


(after "Coals to Newcastle")


Once, Manila hosted
a massive steaming
garbage dump called
"Smokey Mountain"

near which sprung
the shanty town "Tondo"
for residents who lived
by foraging through smoke
for food
or items repairable for resale

The inevitable happened:
an open cooking fire
raged up, quickly spread—
killed dozens

Issue 1 | June 2010

The U.S. Rotary Club,
Manila Branch,
decided to help.

They brought trash cans
(freshly painted red)
filled with sand to Tondo.
The Rotarians thought
the Tondoites could use
the sand for dumping
on future fires

What the people who live
from a trash dump saw
was not "fire prevention"
but garbage cans

inexplicably filled with sand

One Tondoite strolled over
and stuck both hands
deeply into the sand, feeling
through it as if
he were looking for a
prize in a cereal box.