China Town

Swarms of warm yellow faces

not unlike her own

somehow ease the assault

on her tiny nostrils.


Wafts of roasted red ducks

sweetly glistening,


their beaks silenced.


Mid-street, dense clouds

perfumed by acrid fuels

seep from manhole covers.


Ashen faces

stare blankly

as they descend

into dank lairs of steel centipedes,

tunneling under sky scrapers.


Uneven slat board stands:


between storefronts

and sidewalks,

show off chaotic displays—


puckered dark red tomatoes,

peppers made elegant

by wormholes;

limp, rust-edged cabbages,

slumlords indifferent to beetles

trapped in their tenements;

endless buffet of produce,

hand -painted with colors

from a child’s imagination

bleached lifeless

by the gray city.


Her fine hair is grabbed


as they dodge hundreds

of newsprint pages;

carelessly pinned to fraying twine,

outlining each rickety news booth.


On a second look

they’re made extraordinary

by the ballet tattooed on them:

intertwined characters

dancing the local gossip.


Her dimpled hand,

sweat moistened,

shared in silence

with the carved lines

of his worn fingers—

the marriage of terror

and excitement.


She smiles,

as his reassuring fingers

gently squeeze her

young palm,


in his own.

2016 copyright by Katie Pifer available at

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