Street Violence / oscar t. serquiña

And I was on my way home from school, my school bag resting on my shoulders,
Two books in hand, when I saw this kid who belonged to those creatures I dreaded
In the squalor of the streets, mainly because they have a knack for asking pity
From you, nudging you with all their common alibis and mishaps, goading you
To give some alms—for their family, for their schooling, they would often say—
All of which could pile up in your head, all of which could make you wonder
How these kids survive the heat and beat of the city, which had transformed
Into a beastly hub for pests like this kid in front of me, whose next tactic
Was to tap me, his thin fingers defined by crime and grime, his eyes cold
As coins, his palm an empty cup of needs; and he would take away the luxury
Of isolating myself from the world’s menaces—the smoke of cars, the honks
Of buses, the view of vendors on side alleys, and this kid—of course this kid;
When he finally embraced me, tightly, the weight of his body almost pulling
Me down, with all the reek of him, the stain of him blemishing the whiteness
Of my uniform, challenging the control in me, which made me push him hard,
And him landing on the concrete—butt first, then back, then head; and next thing
I know was that I was the center of an angered universe, all kids and men and women,
All sun-baked, all strange faces, all with furious eyes, stripping off the confidence
In me, wracking me, cursing me, ganging up on me, consuming the whole of me,
As if they couldn’t understand a don’t, a please, a no, a stop; and all that came next
Was pain, and fear, and blood, and shock, a blurry memory, a blanking of thought,
A blacking in my mind, the hazy images of prey and predator, of victim and suspect—
And how, till now, I still don’t know which I am between the two.

•••

Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr. is a faculty member of the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts (DSCTA) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He was a fellow for poetry at the 10th UST National Writers Workshop and at the 49th Siliman National Writers Workshop. He maintains a blog, http://lettersinthedark.wordpress.com.

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