Today I meet you at the corner for cà phê.
Sweet bottom of the glass, heavy
with condensed milk. Cigarette-air
meanders between us, rises above.
Look down. You’ll find brown earth cà phê.
This summer day is too heavy.
No, it is cool, you laugh, waving thanks to the air
and the gentle sun above.
Temple outside Nha Trang, bricks cold cà phê:
Touch linga you get boy. Yoni, girl. You whisper heavy
words. Ribbons of incense, rarefied air.
Eyes shut, you touch no stone, gaze above.
“You want boom-boom? Take her, skin smooth cà phê.”
We roll spring roll joints, lick rice paper with heavy
tongues. I pay dollars for karma, offer finch after finch to the air:
they sputter, disoriented, wings fighting wind above.
Here day fades greedily. We gulp down hours of cà phê.
We walk through markets with bodies drying, the heavy
hum of black flies and chatter-buzz air.
In Phnom Penh: beggars line streets, gilded roofs above.
In the tuk tuk we pass signs in big letters: CÀ PHÊ.
The photo of us: background bleached out heavy
with glare, our grins blurred, lost in a rush of air.
I see you ten year if I still alive—flying above.
there is grit in my mouth.
I told you the truth
the palm frond teeth are sharp
and do not require ammunition.
The thick–trunked trees cannot be felled by infant skulls.
Did you believe me
we peeled back the Earth’s crust
and found nothing but bones.
The Egg Lady
The egg lady crouches over her stock:
eggs piled in Styrofoam lids and mesh bags,
like smooth river stones filled with yolk.
She rubbed some eggs like a child’s kneecap
and left alone dirty eggs traced with pink and blue.
She handles the eggs precisely,
I imagine she rode her motorbike to the market in the dark this morning,
like all mornings, with a thousand eggs on her back.
How do a thousand eggs scraping and bumping one another sound?
Does she fear the unobserved crack? The viscous
drip out of shell? The spill, raw, left for the birds
lucky enough to taste (yellow and sticky)
something of themselves?
I walk among you, through Tsukiji market in the early morning.
You, in your wool sweater
cap and rubber slicker.
You zoom past on forklifts, cigarettes stuck like hooks
in your bottom lip. You hurtle past stalls
bursting with eel crab urchin
and fish—many fish—fish in silver red yellow blue.
Fish living in small plastic boxes.
You careen by in schools of five
or six, never stopping. I hug the outskirts
of puddle-strewn aisles and gape
You, you tuna men:
your cutting saws and axes;
the chime of steel meeting flesh
packed in like feathers. The seaweed
smell of you. I reach out
you dart away.
Header photo by Khánh Hmoong