(Transit Lounge, Dubai International Airport, circa 2007)
that he was from far Kazakhstan,
“Exotic place,” he added,
which I know but could not pinpoint
on my mental map.
and said, “I am from India somewhere
farther to the northeast bordering China.”
“Hence her fairer skin,” I thought.
And she piped in,
“From Ethiopia,” and I could not
but think of just how much she paid
to have her curly hair straightened.
From the counter
of their air-conditioned, compact
caravanserai, they all chorused
the suggestion that I opt
for king prawn salad
which, indeed, was so delicious
to the hungry eyes but just so rich
for my already travel-thinned billfold.
Thus I settled
for some salmon sandwich
and a bowl of curly noodles
that the Chinese had perfected
long ago in those steaming kitchens
of their fabled silk road inns.
from out the hot and humid hills
of southern India,” the Ethiopian
said with flourish, bringing me
my mug to wash away
the fishy taste still lingering
along the silk roads
of my taste buds, as I vainly tried
to pinpoint far Kazakhstan
on my travel-weary mental map
while waiting, sleepy, for the call
to put me, once more,
on my way.