a tiny chinese woman in sumatra
moves from shanghai so she
can be poor there instead

makes me a stir fry with onions &
bok choi, ginger & ants—
tiny ants that taste just like pepper

somewhere between our broken
indonesian and my very broken
comprehension, we find a place

to laugh about the great luck
we both have, that ants find her
wok the day i find her kitchen

she stands just above eye level
as i sit at a table by a window
with holy views of a mosque

says she is devout too but not
muslim & asks where i come
from or maybe where i have been

so i say i’ve been watching
rainforest birds under a tree
with an orangutan eating figs

and i had the great fortune
to find rare graceful-pittas,
for birders a holy grail of sorts

i tell her i slipped on the path
that morning scraped my arm
chasing the birds with a camera

     but i will be alright in a day

she speaks of her husband who
plucked swiftlet nests for the rich
how he fell to his death in a cave

and about her son who went
missing two years after that
hunting jungle fowl for their dinner

she looks in my eyes, speaks
clear as the air — Maybe we’ll both
have better luck in the future

finding the things that we’ve lost
surely as buddha shows us the way
at least we’re not ants in a wok