Walking by Washington Square, to catch
a cable car on the Powell-Mason line
to take us to our Geary Street hotel,
we paused to watch some Chinese elders
at Tai Chi on the lawns before the church –
their graceful and controlled aggression.
We passed a raised bed – the label told us –
of ‘Collinsia heterophylla
aka Purple Chinese Houses –
so-called because of the pagoda shape
of the blooms.’ In the middle of the bed,
crushing some of the flowers, was a pair
of well kept men’s black patent leather shoes,
walking, as it were, in the general
direction of Ghiradelli Square.
That evening, as we walked down Stockton Street
to Chinatown, we saw ahead a woman
standing in the centre of the sidewalk
seemingly looking across the street –
a Chinese woman in late middle age
wearing a cocktail dress in faded cream.
As we passed, she began, very loudly,
to sing: ‘I left my heart…’