The sun had set
and the early evening vibe was pulsating
as a man made his way across town

 A beautiful young woman crossed the line
and headed straight for him,
only to return to her side of the road
at the last moment
and continue on her way


 Welcome back, brother

 Welcome back, friend

 Hey, foreigner!

 Non-stop reminders
that he was not from around there
flowed around him,
and yet he was home
Hanoi was home
in many ways
that no other place had been

 A town full of cops and robbers
who bore a striking resemblance to each other,
who plied the same trade

 A place where cowboys rode
wherever they desired
on stallions made of steel
and did whatever they pleased
while Indians watched the rapid demise
of what once had been a jewel,
residual beauty and charm
giving way
to modern horrors

 Hidden treasures and precious gems
amidst the pollution,
the greed
and the noise,
patiently waiting
to be discovered

 Me first!
Me first!
cried millions of egos
as they pushed and shoved
their way around

 Never stop,
never apologize
and never empathize
with those whose names you do not know
was the motto of hundreds of thousands
as they rode the wrong way down one-way streets
at night without a light
while composing a message on a phone
and driving through a red light

 And in secret gardens
the kind and gentle
tended to their flowers,
sipped green tea and shared
moments of peace and calm

 And in the middle of busy intersections
those who had lost their minds
danced for hours
without pause
as herds of motorbikes flowed by them

 Bigger, faster,
taller, louder,
many competed to see
who had the worst taste of all

 And young flowers bloomed
and dared to free
from the shackles of stifling traditions

 Old haunts and old friends
offered warm hospitality,
and the city had been kind
to the man who had returned home,
but it was beginning to lose its grip,
and there was not enough oxygen in the air

 Abandon ship!
We’re going down!

 An alarm had been raised
and it echoed around the city

 Don’t go, whispered Temptation

 Stay a while longer, friend

 Casting webs of drama
Hanoians fished
for all that they desired
And while some went after the bait,
others managed to slip through the nets
of pleasure and pain
and swim across the border
to islands of paradise

 The time to go has come, my friends
Come and visit me
beyond the veil