john tiong chunghoo

(Jan 21,1960 / NEW YORK)

Ode to Poverty


poetry in progress

i have seen poverty
climb stairs to make
that morning paper
available at the top floor

i have seen poverty
climb stairs to sell that
wrapped tied farm chicken
quiet and bowed,
in a one star hotel
a sinewy woman waiting
for the chance of her dawn


i have seen poverty light
oil lamp in the dead of night
with the hope to leap from rags
to cosier enclave through
pen and ink, alphabets,
arab numerals, mind spinning algebras,
logarithms, and medical lexicons

i have seen poverty
take men across turbulent seas
oceans, to strange lands
to make money for home
thousands of miles away

i have seen poverty sweats
from dawn till dusk
under the tropical sun
smoothening highways,
coating multi-storey buildings


i have seen poverty
sank trespassers of seas
who have sold every penny
with the hope to reach the
land of their dreams and opportunities


i have seen poverty
hops onto beds with strange men
with the hope to take
some dollars from them
to feed starving
children at the slums

i have seen poverty carry
a senile Chinese woman on
shoulders up a famous hill resort
she to admire her honeymoon spot
he to put meals on the table
for mom and dad, brothers and sisters

i have seen poverty gulp
men and women in the seas,
throw them helter skelter
in a murderous web of human
trafficking and slavery

i have seen poverty turn
graceful beautiful maidens
into thin, nerve wracking
frames, wrinkles and flesh
driven to the edge of existence

Submitted: Saturday, October 20, 2012
Edited: Monday, January 14, 2013

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