Woman in a Street Stall

By | 1 July 1999

She makes torn shapes above a pot;
and I love to watch how the moon
adds its cool, transparent edge
to her lips. She tests for enough spice,
enough distance, and I watch those
sticks of cinnamon float among
her large, flat spoons.Ah, there could
be a bird flapping out of tall grass
by her sweet oasis, and a man too,
whose breath smells of cedar and dust,
who has come to quench himself,
to listen too to the duet of her spoons
and bracelets. I watch her face
above the steaming pot, above the
milky expanse where I imagine all
her customers, lonely, yet open
to the intimacies of their thirsts,
to their days full of the umber scents
of their longings stirred in well
before dark. Far off, the sounds
of dunes moving under birds’ wings
are the sounds her sighs make
moored above her shimmering liquid.
She sifts ingredients, spoons them in,
and her bracelets slice the air
with a thin marimba music, the kind
you might hear somewhere far off,
as you set your afternoon to the
loneliest bandwidth … She sips
a last spoon, douses the air,
shakes in grains, spice, the green
Formosan leaf … this woman who
calls us in, draws us in with her
skilful, aromatic finesse; who,
like an illusionist, knows what
she can and can’t gain from the
immeasurable edge … this woman
who works in heat that begs
illusion of her, distance of her;
who listens for whatever she can
amongst the soft resolutions
of her bracelets … She blows
now at the fine wisps of steam,
gently, as if she held her lips
to a man’s damp cheek, though
she consoles all of us, who’ve come,
drawn out by the need for tenderness.

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