NOT YET THIRTEEN

Slung over shoulders, wooden signboards
shout ROMANOV VODKA
Sporting Romanov Vodka T-shirts

five young men file and weave
through Kathmandu’s moving throng
A youth in jeans stops mid-street

to watch them pass
Notched on his imitation leather belt
the letters: T, E, X, A, S

announce a destination and life
he’s keen to pursue. Straight ahead
against a wall, a pock-faced boy

kneels on the sidewalk, last in a long row of men
squatting on makeshift stools
ready to polish shoes. In the stale shadows

of a government building
where people line up to pay bills
or make inquiries,

two young girls coil against a gate
selling cigarettes to those waiting inside
and to those passing. The oldest,

not yet thirteen, the other, maybe nine
As they lean on each other,
the youngest laughs. Not-yet-thirteen

has forgotten how to smile
In her drawn face, a glimmer
when the Romanov Vodka boys pass

Her eyes downcast
Hidden
like the darkest of moons

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