Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor Emerita

Rachel Neve-Midbar: “Searching For Gold”

Searching For Gold

Hanoi, Vietnam

When I leave the city
where so many people
seem to be missing limbs,
where I sit in endless
meetings with men
who’s bad breath pulses
from their blackened teeth,
and where the women
on the walls have long
faces, and even longer hair that falls
straight to the floor,
or the women on the backs
of motorcycles, hair blowing
out behind like curtains
in a storm, and as I drive away
from the motor bikes
and stacks of roasted dogs,
the countryside opens, cartoon lush
in front of me, and here are real
women bent at the waist
up to their knees in rice water,
conical hats on their heads,
and our hired car drags
in the muddy hills, and my husband
rushes off to search without
me, and I’m alone
with some aggie eyed oxen,
and girls whose hair
is plaited and tucked away,
and I watch the day trickle by,
until I start to wonder
if my husband’s been rolled
into a ditch, his two passports
removed from his wallet:
the dollars, the euros, the swiss franc, the yen,
even the gold coins
all gone, plastic cards scattered
near his face like the flower petals
in our hotel bathtub,
and there’s no cell reception—
but a buzz in the distance
brings a boy in what I recognize
is the first sharkskin suit
I’ve ever seen in real life,
and as he brakes his bike
and rushes up the hill
I call to him in English
and luckily one of the older women
translates as he shouts his price:
two million dong—
and I know it is sixteen thousand dong
to the dollar, and I am canceling zeros
in my head, when over the crest of the hill
comes my husband,
his chest puffed
as he empties a bag of rocks
at my feet, his eyes shining
crazy green and I see those rocks,
mostly the milky white
of unprocessed gold,
and he tells me everything
I ever wanted to hear:
fifteen grams per tonne at surface.


cover of Salaam of Birds by Rachel Neve-Midbar
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