Walking Through Chinatown, June, 1976

My pupils dilate, my heart rate climbs.
Too many days, living off peanut butter
& Aunt Jemima syrup sandwiches.
Glucose, dextrose, fructose,
“the building blocks of life,”
coarse through my veins.

Sounds – Mandarin's tonal staircase,
the pop and sizzle of sesame oil in charred woks,
an old couple's shared laughter –
come alive.

As do smells – pungent leeks,
whiffs of jasmine,
a dark cloud of diesel,
a fistful of crackling wonton.


On Telegraph Hill,
I spot the perfect couple, rich and oblivious,
arm and arm,
like some credit card commercial.

At sunset my worn-to-the-cork desert boots
give up the ghost.
I stand there.
My stomach empty.
My room, too damn far.