On the Streets of Hanoi

by Katherine Towler

Across from the park
men perch on tiny stools
sipping sugar cane juice
from tall glasses
while the woman
who tends the cart
squats at the curb
beside a pan of water
rinsing the glasses of the men
who have come and gone.
She does not look at me.
I am a white ghost,
a haunted and haunting figure
in a history that will not be named.
My feet move
over broken concrete
as though feeling for words
on an empty page.

Motorbikes careen past,
horns honking,
folding me into their wild dance,
oblivious to any narrative
I might impose,
to the need for a narrative at all.
One hunger replaces another
in me, the hunger to be recognized
for the hunger to be free
of this American body
and the outsized appetites
I am shedding bit by bit
like the layers of clothing
I no longer need.
How is it that they allow me
to become one of them,
to add my mute offering
to the great song of life and joy
that is this city?
The woman looks up
from her pan of dish water,
her eyes a quiet invitation
to join the flow
of a human river
winding in silent
forgiveness towards the sea.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap