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Stolen glances

A midsummer day at noon
the temperature is hovering around thirty-five;
Sprawled on the wooden floor of the living-room
of a flat on the 7th floor of the block in front
a young woman clad in a light chemise,
her legs stretched out in front of her,
is delving into a water-melon with spoon and knife
and devouring it.

Behind a mesh-window
up on the veranda on the 11th floor of the block behind
an old man with a white beard
feels his mouth watering at the sight of it all.

After a while, having finished eating,
she lifts the hem of her chemise with one hand
and fans herself with the other.

The old man on the veranda, seeing this,
slowly blinks once, then turns and goes back into his room,
fanning himself audibly with the fan he is carrying:
the statues of Han-shan and Shih-te roar with laughter.

A little later, when the old man returns to the veranda,
what meets his gaze across the way?
The young woman has changed her dress and is kneeling
very decorously opposite some gentleman.

Turning as if disappointed, the old man of the veranda
retreats again to his room, muttering
'What chameleons women are!'
and the two monks titter and giggle more than ever.
 

Note: Han-shan and Shih-te: two Chinese Zen monks of the 7th century Tang Dynasty. Famous 'monastery fools,' they are traditionally shown in fits of uncontrolled laughter.