The old lady was a short, squat androgynous

type, with fortune teller eyes, black loam

beneath fingernails, straggling white hairs

around a sagging chin and the gravelly voice

of barmaid at the Poitin Still Irish Pub.

Drooping drab grey garments made

her resemble a medieval peasant who

stepped out of a Brueghel’s painting

walking along cobblestones shopping

on the Friday market of central Ghent.

She began talking to me as if I was

an old friend, about how good she felt

about spring and all, days much warmer,

light much longer, everything blooming,

especially her asparagus magically appearing

each year.

If she didn’t pick them right away

their wildness would spread like kudzu

or bamboo, their tufted, wispy ends

leaning over from their own weight,

a welcome addition to her garden she thought.

“Isn’t that Diane at the register

she asked?” as tremulous fingers

counted dollar bills from a vintage

beaded purse.

She hoisted packages with surprising strength,

bidding me adieu as she mounted an ox cart.