The heat veil descends the third week of July

and the market vendors feel its suffocation.

Next to the stall of spices, a woman holds a cleaver,

perched just an arm’s length from the spiked jackfruit shell.

She brings it down with the force

of one hacking through bones.

Squatting on sidewalk corners, the gossipmongers grind

betel chew against tea-yellowed teeth and stained gums

the color of blood.

They squawk at passersby to look at their merchandise.

Under the red flames of the phuong blossoms,

on a road where cyclos and Mercedes share the same lane,

the metalsmiths wrap their coils of worry

in tight strips around veined hands.

The dark years roll down passages of musk-air

and the way the fish tremble on hills of salt

reminds me of a blue-green expanse.

I want to ride it and tame it as my carrier

back to that old country.