Balcony in Hanoi

by Alison Jesson

Whether it is the slap-slap of sandalled feet
of women who bear baskets of dragon fruit,

or the creak of bicycles carrying bundles
of greens and limes to market,

the road outside my window never sleeps.
Pale apricot sun diffuses morning mist

as motor cycles weave through blaring horns,
laden with chickens or pigs, dried fish or fridges.

Rickshaw-drivers lounge, waiting to pedal
tourists down other dusty streets.

In noon heat, a dog pants in the shadows
and laughing schoolgirls ride past like slender storks.

At dusk, families gather round pavement cook pots,
share noodle soup, and talk

of dollars, Hondas, mobile phones,
farmers who sell paddy fields for factories.