John Hicks: “Exotic”
Across the water, beneath bulbs dangling
over the bins of the wholesale docks,
the rhythmic bidding of the fruit vendors
skips off the darkness to our open window.
In ankle-length sarongs and cotton jackets
against pre-dawn chill, the women buy fruit
for customers who, at first light, will wait
on docks along Thonburi’s canals. Later,
our cook will bargain with them over the price
of papayas, pineapples or mangos
picked yesterday on upcountry farms.
They like to ask her about us; what we are like:
do we like Thai food and do we like it spicy;
what will she cook for us today; how old we are,
and do we have children? They speak of us as
Nai and Madam—respectful addresses despite
our youth. In the land of orchids, spirit houses,
and gold-tipped temple spires, we are exotic.
As I pull the sheet up over my shoulder
and go back to sleep, they load their boats,
arrange purchases on fresh banana leaves
in reed baskets. They’re waiting for the sun,
waiting for it to reach across the Chao Phraya
to touch the giant spire of Temple of the Dawn.
It’s then they’ll tuck sarongs around their ankles,
and pushing off from the wholesalers,
they’ll call encouragement to each other
as they glide sampan-smooth into still dark canals,
small drops falling from their paddles.
John Hicks has been published or accepted for publication by I-70 Review, Ekphrastic Review, Glint Literary Journal, Midnight Circus, Panorama, Mojave River Review, and others.