The Price of Humidity

by Marc Vincenz

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We’ve hit stone and the front right is flapping: a real live plucked chicken.
Yet, apparently unfazed, he still drives on; strangely, he leans to the left,
as if his scrawny body weight might balance the load.

The five of them, piled in behind, jumbles of sweaters, and musty tweed
and ties that lie like stethoscopes, banded eels, liquorish twizzlers, entrails,
and I daren’t say, even one like a hangman’s noose.

Now we’re stopped again, not from the flap of rubber, but there’s a fight,
right in the middle of the road.  Cars, trucks, motorbikes, jumbles of produce
perched, ready to spill; still, they weave their way round, sputters,

throw a glance, toss an occasional butt, gravel, carbon monoxide gust,
grumble, hoot, but the scrap ensues; fisticuffs.  One has a swinging Shaolin kick.
Ooo—crack straight to the jaw.  Backseat basket crowd of five applauds.

A gold tooth clinks along the fender rail.  Anyway, there’s nowhere to go.
The fat one has the thin one pinned, flat foot of sole grinding, oozing rust. 
Evening scrapes in, and headlights pop on in relay.  Eyes glint.

Behind me they’re calling bets: five to one on the Skinny, three to one
on Humpty, fresh notes are crackling, and there’s nowhere to go;
full school bus straight ahead, passes, wheedling the barrier, taxi left.

Skinny spins to hands, flips back, kick straight to the nose. Humpty stumbles,
two hands cupped like an avian flu mask, cracks, swings forth in chops.
Skinny steps on his shoe.  Humpty reels, hops on one toe.

Again, the crowd applauds.  Someone’s raised the odds on Skinny,
paper changes hands.  Guy with a tie like a noose, screams from the window:
Onward Shaolin Master!  Strike him down now!  Squash him like a frog!

But the thin man, bends over, coughs three days of cigarettes, hacks,
then somehow catches his thick air in short bursts, stands, walks calmly.
Steps into his taxi and rumbles off.  Great boo and sigh behind:

Money goes back to where it started, full circle.  Humpty too is vanished,
and soon, rumble of asphalt resumes, and we bump on, chuffing, slopping,
cropping onward until we’re blue.


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