A card player smokes at a folding table
on his balcony over the alleyway,
which is reached by other alleys and steps
worn smooth as a luck-stone always carried.
He says the air’s better in his domain
fifteen feet up from the morning clatter
of chairs and bottles. He’s cool up there,
though the tuc-tucs come and the stalls are starting,
and all over the city voices are stirring.
In his one-room palace his hand strengthens,
his quick hands flick as they flip his cards over
and as they land on the green cloth he exhales
with the “Ah…” of one who makes a discovery
and an “Ah!” and “Ha-ha” of sudden good humour.
Though the game he controls is made of frustration
he’s fifteen feet up from it, in an air
of elevated thought, an unshattered air,
and the card player delights in not knowing
what is going to happen next in his life
of cards. He smokes. Tea sweetens his throat.