Writing Competition: Floating village

Five gleaming kids, brown and thin,
flip-slip into the brown canal.
Three splashing infants bob and spin
in lifebuoys, arms splayed.
It’s Learn-to-Swim,
Lake Tonle Sap-style.

The ferryman’s boy, serious
and powder-monkey quick, runs
the gunnels fixing shade for us,
then squats aft.

Houseboats, frugal and crude,
line both banks. Their drop latrines,
perched at stern, rudely add
to the new canal.

Fishermen fix motors, nets.
Into their lives we peer.
Churches, schools sway on rafts.
Hammocks swing, TVs glare.

In rough and ramshackle frames
their precarious rustic life is caught
by our casual eye.
Here, one in eight
under fives die,
of sepsis, in the main.

Back at The Victoria, poolside,
smiling waiters bring fresh snacks
to two kids
their rejected sandwiches
crawled on
by little black ants.

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