ODE TO THE NIGHTMARKET
you are the arch nemesis of silence
armed with arguments over pricing
twelve ringgits and mai yi, song yi.
you lift pop-up canopy tents
and listen to dialects as they wrap
a twine necklace around your lips.
your native tongue takes flight.
every night, you hum an electric blue,
an orange-peel moon in your dusky hair
no stars tonight.
you expand into spaces
next to the display of Dragon Eyes fruits
you could fit a child’s silhouette
but not their shadow.
someone takes refuge there now,
to evade the smell of durians
her father—your father—is selling.
he is engaged in a bargaining battle
with a pair of fierce eyes and a sharp tongue.
you never go to sleep.
your irises reflect tinted light
from paper lanterns that cast
pink and blue hues on the woman
selling chicken sizzling in a pot of oil,
covered in flakes of gold.
she switches between Bahasa Malay
and broken English that you taught her.
you hand out samples of fingernail-sized dried fish
with invisible scales and crunchy skeletons.
your forehead is sticky with sweat
and pieces of sugar art,
spider webbing lines of sucrose
what once used to shape a panda on a stick.
a young boy buys a secondhand small rug
you knitted yourself. you threaded
your favorite triangle-square pattern
he runs his fingers through a forest
of sunset red threads that cling to his blisters.
you are the yesterday with different faces,
the tourists with army green fanny packs,
orange four-legged stools,
and slightly burnt satay.
you are the streets in the day and the peddler at night
grounds footprinted and black gum-stained.
you are the bustling night
that city life attempts to recreate.
Cassandra is a junior in the Creative Writing conservatory at the Orange County School of the Arts. She is an editor of her school’s award-winning art and literary magazine, Inkblot, and has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards as well as the National Student Poets Program. Her plays are currently being produced by theaters across the nation. Her poetry, essays and reviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, TeenReads, Jet Fuel Review, Feminine Inquiry, Aerie International, and more.