PoetryIssue 14 | February 2012

Two poems by Ken Turner

Saigon Streets

Huddled like the paddy ducks
  I saw from the bus in every delta village,
    knees drawn to chests and arms folded
like wings, two dark-haired women
  and a young man perch on a curb, crouch
    for hours behind trays of cigarettes, cheap
sweets, and pirated English titles:Lonely
  Planet Vietnam, The Quiet American,
    The Things They Carried.

Motorbikes swarm the street like angry bees, hissing
  buses hose the sidewalk with fumes
    and on another street in this city

a man’s skin, kerosene-doused, sizzled
  and popped, his shaved head shining
    into darkness, rust robes brooding into black.
Flames exalted his flesh, flapped in the air
  as shutters snapped when I was still a child
    to bequeath me that instant and more:
a road of running children and chemical fire,
  the man with eyes clenched against the bullet
    about to breach his skull, his blood about
to flush the gutter. Monsoons muscle through these streets
  each year, scrub and scrub at the stubborn stains.

    Tonight these three roost on their concrete
nest, the young man’s eyes narrow
  above a sharp nose, his parted hair soft
    and brown as my daughter’s, damaged
leg hidden until he dips and lurches across the street.
  Whose child might he be? Outside the city
    along the road to Trang Bang, the children must be quiet
at last. A gentle darkness should be soaking the fields,
  the buffalo settled like boulders.
    Somewhere an egret is rising
unseen against the trees. I watch
  the vendors move their lips, their voices lost
    in traffic: a film without sound, exacting, elusive.

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About the author

Ken Turner has been working, writing, and running overseas for eighteen years. He has taught in Congo, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Venezuela, and currently, China. Memorable runs include ones along the Nile in Cairo, through a market in Luang Prabang, and away from a mob of protesters in Abidjan. You can find his poetry in Atlanta Review, Fine Madness, Southern Poetry Review, and several anthologies.

Read our current issue:

Poetry

Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

Travel notes

Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok