Fruit vendor

A poem by Eleanor Goodman


He sleeps under a neon sky

beside his fruit.

When it rains, his roof


is the bamboo mat where he slept.

Dragonfruit, canary melon, loquat, sugar-apple. 

His rice bowl.


Nothing extra, not on his body,

not in his pockets.

He carries half his life in a bag on his back.


On National Day he joins the rows

of workers rocking on railway benches,

the crates of pigeons, baskets of flat-beans,


thick with the tension of return.

Back at the place he thought

would always be home


he looks into the unfamiliar face

of his son, who asks him no questions.

If little went to waste,

he’ll say they had a good year.

Eleanor Goodman lives in Shanghai. Her book of translations, Something Crosses My Mind: Selected Poems of Wang Xiaoni was the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant and was shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Prize. Nine Dragon Island, a book of her original poetry, will be published in 2016