Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, March 12, 2015

City Market

by Sheri Vandermolen

An extended power outage
forces foot-pedaled delivery trucks
to trace, by rote,
the dreamcatcher’s weave
of kohl-shrouded streets
encircling KR Market.

Inside, a handful of generators
run single incandescent bulbs
that vaguely punctuate the darkness,
allowing vendors to set up shop,
begin threading marigolds
into meter upon meter
of yellow-orange-yellow garlands
they’ll have young boys spool
about the main selling floor.

Tucked between man-high bags
of rosebuds, lotuses, and mums,
women reposition their knees
and barefoot feet, to accommodate
babies still asleep in their laps,
while stitching jasmine strands
to festoon ponytails and temple doors.

Upstairs, homeless men
lie in Black Dog slumber
or arise, in aching stupor,
to find and chew the day’s first betel,
barely able to stagger out of the way
of fast feet transporting trays
of kumkum pyramids —
saffron, scarlet, crimson.

As the first strains of daylight appear,
buy-in-bulk customers
flood the basement, watching carefully
as quick merchant hands
dump cupfuls of nipped flower buds
onto the worn trays of biased iron scales
that will weigh the goods,
decide their still-negotiable value.

Full sunrise brings vegetable hawkers
to the building’s perimeter,
which will soon be overgrown
with head-carried baskets of lemons, gourds,
beans, and spiraled paan leaves,
burlap-wrapped piles of palak, bay leaf, and coriander.

Along side lanes, Chia-trucks
(wheels barely visible, for the teeming greenery)
lumber down rows
thick with banana leaves and coconuts,
then begrudgingly halt,
to drop off neem leaves, foxtail and asparagus ferns.

By 8 a.m., the entire vortex
has spiraled counterclockwise, into silence.
Laborers sweep away the debris and red spittle,
leaving only sidewalk stains
and a handful of missed weeping stems
to prove the existence of this erratic Eden.

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