The old man sits on a stool
scooping in noodles, watching me,
his narrow stall a jungle
of maple and magnolia;
at his feet bowls of bulbous guppies,
crickets and kittens in cages,
baby turtles scrambling for air.

I can’t speak his language.
I smile, poke a finger through the wire,
and he taps out a price on his calculator,
hands it to me to bargain, but I hold back,
embarrassed I don’t know
what’s for eating
what’s for company.

Janet Fisher

From set of poems The New China
In Women who Dye Their Hair