Old Seamstress in Bangkok

The tendons in her hands are creased
as the sharp pleats in a paper fan,
her fingers bent as a red king crab.

Again and again she pushes the silk
under the foot of a sewing machine
until it flows on the other side
sleek as an emerald waterfall.

Outside, quiet river boats slip
across the night like plantain skins
peeled and tossed into the klong
under a buffet of lights.

I want to ask her if she feels trapped—
a herring that circles in a school
until salvation comes in a fisherman’s net.

She lifts her head to gaze at me
in silence through her liquid eyes,
her face as still as a Buddha that sits
in Wat Pho Temple, with singing bowls.
In her bowl a mango, smooth and ripe.


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