POEM: Wet Market

Water snakes writhe in a plastic pan of clear water.

Massively muscled fish lie eye-up, tail jutting over air, as torsos rest on a bed of shaved ice.

The stout fish lie next to a more flexible species that are nestled into each other, which — in turn — are next to eels that are tangled in each other.

A cat alternately stalks and sprints, testing the air with an upturned nose and the safety of approach with timid feet.

Eyes up, the cat considers a plot to leap-snatch a tiger prawn.

When, like manna from heaven, a small fish — so fresh that it’s capable of “plotting” its escape in muscle spasms more than with its ill-oxygenated fish brain — flips itself off the shallow tin tray onto the ground.

The cat, an instinct-guided missile, snatches the fish in its jaws and runs through a narrow gap in the wall to a favorable dining haunt.

DAILY PHOTO: The Greens and Reds of Khlong Toei Wet Market

Taken on September 20, 2015 at Khlong Toei Market

Taken on September 20, 2015 at Khlong Toei Market


In India there is a color coding system that one sees on all packaged goods and probably a majority of restaurant menus. A green dot in a square means the food is vegetarian (which means neither egg nor meat content in the product) and a red dot means non-veg.

Here in Thailand, at Khlong Toei Wet Market, it’s interesting to see how vendors used red and green awnings. In this case, it’s not so much to signify the product as to enhance its visual appeal. Vendors who specialized in green produce inevitably used green awnings to make their greens look greener. By the same token, meat vendors and fish vendors that specialized in “red fish” (e.g. tuna, as opposed to white fish, say halibut) used red awnings to make the reds redder.  Incidentally, white fish and squid sellers often used a combination of white and blue tubs to create another kind of aesthetic appeal. Fruit vendors are out of luck because they have just too many colors to deal with. (Unless they specialized a single fruit like watermelon–or durian, because if you sell durian you’re out of luck on selling anything you don’t want tainted by the smell of durian.)