The King Is Dead (from the Thai)
Every house no matter how wretched or exalted
has received a greeting card edged in black and
every soul therein wishes that the sender hadn’t
sent it, but he has: the King is dead. The country
was called Siam when he came to the throne
and when people reach back to then they reach
for him: but he is gone. No one knows what to do.
Great crowds march silently in the streets. Mobiles
are turned off, smart phones fall dumb. The world
wants the country to wake to a new day, but the
Thais don’t know how. There is a black hole in
every heart and even giant stars that enter there
grow small, dim and disappear. The King is dead.
I don’t read Thai so this isn’t a translation, but I think this is how a Thai poem might sound like in English. Dunno.
There is an apocryphal story of China when houses first got telephones. The phone would ring, the phone was picked up but neither the caller nor the person who answered the phone would speak first – there simply was no protocol on what to do when a stranger entered a house this way. The Thais don’t open the envelope, not only because they don’t know what to say, but because as long as the enveloped is unopened the King is still alive. Grief ultimately takes on a life of its own here.
I don’t see much in Chong Khae about the King’s death. People are wearing black or small black bows on their shoulders and there is a small altar built onto the traffic circle, but it is still early days. This is a watershed event for the Thais and it won’t fit into the 24-hour news cycle we’re used to in the West.
My novella about Thailand Pi Lok the Specter is on Smashwords.com