Old man at lunchtime hawker stalls


Changi Village, Singapore

The food queue stretches forever
as it did back then. As he did then
he squats against the wall,
stick legs and arms all angles;
left hand shields his eyes, eats
with the other. Rice. He still dreams

of rice; clean, no stones. And salt. Loves salt.
Sweats so much it’s like he’s drying
from the inside out. No meat on his bones,
just rib-shapes through scraps of tattered clothes
on crusted skin baked brown as the thin soup
that he takes in one gulp and instantly
expels in spurts from his ruined gut.

Everything reduced to this, expands
to this. It’s never over, never enough.

Virginia Jealous

Author: Virginia Jealous

Virginia Jealous is a writer whose work includes travel journalism, essays and poetry. She’s written many guidebooks for Lonely Planet, is a freelance contributor to the Weekend Australian and is published in a range of newspapers, magazines and journals. Her most recent collection of poetry and prose, Hidden World, emerged from an Asialink writing residency in India in 2012 and was published by Hallowell Press in 2013. Virginia lives out of a suitcase and on the road when not at home in Denmark, Western Australia.