- Snake Alley
How long does it take to know the man beside youis dangerous? I thought, and walked among the black-haired groups of businessmen, tourists, vendors with their deer horn powders, whiskeys laced with blood (Stamina for a man! one shouted then, noting me, For a woman,better skin!). Past the open bars with men on stools singing, red-faced, after my student backpack. What was I doing, alone, among them? Question that the Scot once asked, stumbling drunken from his loch to find me camped alone, too shy to run off before his beery warning: I never kissedan American before, his sudden lunge knocking me to the ground. How long to know a man is dangerous? In Taiwan, the neon shops were wet with rain. I passed glass tanks of scorpions, snapping turtles, rattlesnakes. I could have asked and a man would reach in with a pair of tongs to pull out whatever gleaming shape I liked. I could have worn my wool dress and walked among the other women in the market. I could have been a teacher there. I could have married, and if a man called out suddenly from the dark, not shrugged my jacket close around my face. Instead, I slept all day in my hostel cot to wake at night, searching out the last quiet bar in the alley. It was dark. A man sat slumped at one end of the counter. There were piles of peanut shells scattered on the floor, a show on t.v. of a woman, in a velcro suit, being tossed against a velcro door. I didn’t even look his way [End Page 2] when the man snorted. I ordered and drank my beer, turned only when the man shifted, slowly, to confront me. The dark shrank down to a red shape. The man was an orangutan. His enormous arms draped over the counter. His black eyes blinked in his shovel face. Kiss me: I’m Irish, read the thin, green t-shirt stretched across his belly. How long does it take to know the man beside you is an ape? You should be more careful, the Scot had taunted. Don’t worry, the barman said, this one is safe, and the ape, as if to prove the point, stretched one long arm out for me to shake. [End Page 3]
Paisley Rekdal has two books out in 2012, Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press) and Intimate (Tupelo Press).