In the first hotel, an icky river of ants moving under the black wool blanket. In the houses, ceilings were low and the windows small—inside anywhere was always dark. Hawkers in the market needed lamps in their stalls by noon, but not when the light was more even, like dawn. On Idul Fitri, people who spoke English thanked us for coming, shook our hands, and the newspapers under their prayer rugs blew around turning the whole green world black and white. Leaded gas fumes made a wavy curtain of rainbows in the air. The railroad tracks, and a few blocks beyond, fried chicken, with its head still attached—amazing. You thought it was just OK. A jackfruit, like a blanched, pitted heart, hid in the milky soup. Tutti frutti ice cream at the Tip Top. We took in and in, spat nothing out—barely even words. We passed on the volcano trip—the bus left way too early. I learned to love bad books there, when I wasn’t swimming in the oddly pristine pool hidden behind two pillars and a wall of rocks alone.

Jennifer L. Knox is the author of four books of poems. Her work has appeared four times in The Best American Poetry series as well as in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and American Poetry Review. The Los Angeles Book Review said of her most recent book, Days of Shame & Failure, ‘”This panopoly of twenty-first century American human experience leaves the reader a different person.” She teaches poetry writing at Iowa State University and is currently at work on a culinary memoir. Jennifer is also the proprietor of Saltlickers, a small-batch, artisanal spice company.

Featured image via Pixabay.

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