There are many things on the side of the road in Ho Chi Minh City depends what time of day or what you're looking for often not looking for anything at all but it’s right in front of you coconuts petrol coffee bike mechanics fruit air compressors noodles key makers dogs every kind of Vietnamese food roasted duck crab soup Com Tam Xuch Xich people going about their business selling everything on the side of the road the convenience of this is beyond measure how long and when you’ll see someone in the middle of the day selling sunglasses collecting bottles singing blindly in tedium repetition balloons bobbling in the breeze like the leaves in the trees we drive motorbikes here and there's always a place to fix your bike when it gives up it's dizzying the space that invades us familiarity with the signs landmarks beings bags of ice melting on the backs of bikes how much time do you have until you reach your next destination seemingly free on your own with your kids family and bikes and the signs if you ever tried to count all the signs you would run out of time I fly by on my motorbike noticing the mannequins with no hair and Massage! Massage! to resolve in anonymity Be All in proximity of oneself with others.
Melodies come transfixed I can hear it in the birds in the morning in the afternoon they come to me when a man is walking down the street singing to himself when the Vietnamese have something to sell you buy don't know why but that's the way it is here advertising comes by word of mouth a strong fixation of sound echolocation off the walls in the hem where I live there’s a blind man who sings karaoke and sells toothbrushes face wipes toothpicks hygiene he sings from memory for money sings along the walls the tone bouncing off sounds transfixed you can hear people shouting to each other down the street the cathedral Bells of the pink Church hit every hour resound in the power of prayer Gong God Gong God so long forgotten song tones deliberate early-morning residents pushing through along do I know you? have I heard you singing? did you hear me? repeating to myself some distant memory a tune dislodged from Redemption recompense in the spirit of Walt Whitman Woody Guthrie I ask you to sing along for the pure effection of living breathing listening to the power of Words and Melody transfixed perplexed in meaning but true in spirit resolution immersed in the power of sound.
To the young man in the wheelchair a boy left on the side of the highway selling tickets something dropped off in the sun and left to fend for himself for someone else probably his family on the side of the road as it starts to rain everyone races by on their motorbikes without even noticing him maybe some except for one boy about the same age who stops his bike and runs back throws a poncho over this kid buys a ticket and continues on his way with his own business there are many kinds of kids younger than this boy doing the same thing selling tickets asking for money crouched on the side of busy intersections with their heads pulled down inside their laps pushed one hand out accepting alms the locals tell me to never give the kids money cuz if they don't make enough or not as much as the day before they will get beaten or worse I don't know people in desperate situations do desperate things even at the expense of other human beings living things and some go out of their way even when in their own predicament of thought and recovery and Life! may I be content with what I have! may I not always feel the need to satiate my good sense my big mouth my words falling off my tongue sometimes my misjudgments blessed and my eyes never healed so I may see it all and that I never forget there are those who could use a hand with alms a line we’re human beings for Christs’ sake and some of us are not at home but we’re still here.
Ken Edward Rutkowski is an artist/writer living in Vietnam. While in Asia, he has traveled around Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand and Sri Lanka. He is a contributing writer with Mad Swirl and more of his work can be found in spaces such as Tofu Ink Arts Press, Scapegoat Review, Fiction International and The New Post-literate. Ken recommends Viet Dreams.