For a week, our bedroom
on the fourth floor
of this condominium
reeked of sewer odor.
It invaded from the empty lot
outside — abandoned
except for the debris.

It was the hot season
so we didn’t close
the windows.
Otherwise, we would be
compelled to turn on
the ozone depleting air-conditioner.
We tried eco-friendly air freshener
but the stench overwhelmed
the fragrance every time.

Aside from the foul smell,
did we also inhale toxic fumes?
Did it reduce years off our lives?
Anyway, that was a year ago
and my wife and I are still alive.
We have recovered from the virus,
and our faces have been spared
from crashing into the pavement,
or being struck by a fist
or slashed by a box cutter.

It’s now the first anniversary
of the lockdown
and we know
that the forces outside
are always more lethal.
And sometimes,
they seep in.

Karlo Sevilla of Quezon City, Philippines is the author of the poetry collections “Metro Manila Mammal” (Soma Publishing, 2018) and “Outsourced!...” (Revolt Magazine, 2021). Recognized among The Best of Kitaab 2018 and nominated twice for the Best of the Net, his poems appear in Philippines Graphic, Radius, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Collective Unrest, Poets Reading The News, Poetry24, Line Rider Press, I am not a silent poet, Tuck Magazine, NINSHAR Arts, and elsewhere. In his spare time, he volunteers for the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (Solidarity of Filipino Workers). Read other articles by Karlo.