Omphalos

— Ae Hee Lee

               At the mercado central,
out of the corner of my eye: a man
pushing a creaking wheelbarrow
pregnant with chamomile stalks
and flowers.

                                    He pauses
between the glistering curtains of
hung fish, next to a translucent box
decorated with waning

                        candles that kneel
to touch the feet of a perpetually
crucified Jesús inside, his head
slung as if tired.

                        The man shifts
the weight of the load onto his
left side, releases his other hand
to cross his chest. He quickly kisses
two fingertips

                                       alight
and presses them barely against
the glass: ashen prints on the dim
reflection of my forehead.
I could say

                              I understand
longing, but the truth is I know
nothing of his. At the corner,
I’m trading my coins for a bag
of yucca sticks;

                              they remind
me of the snow and birch trees
lingering through another country’s
winter—

                              A story
at the hem of his story, all
I can say is that he might have
glimpsed back.


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