Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Friday, October 8, 2010

Trash Burning

(Chong Khae, Thailand)My Thai mother-in-law, who is younger than I am,
rakes trash into a pile the same way we would rake leaves.
She is diabetic, illiterate, and when my wife leaves a cell phone
with her, she has to get someone else to answer when it rings.
She hunkers down on a low shoe-shine bench and begins
to light the trash.
I walk around the corner and close windows to keep
smoke out. I wish there was no trash in this world
or that we had a better way of dealing with it, but most of all I wish
she wouldn’t burn it at this most beautiful time of day
when the setting sun over the green evenness of
rice field creates a mindfulness all its own.
I’m muttering, “Were you raised in a barn?”
but I know she would have welcomed
living in a barn throughout most of her life.
Paper edges blacken and curl,
the choking smoke rises shaped like a martini glass,
and my mother–in-law has . . . disappeared.

10/3/2010 FG

Two rules for writing poetry

First, be generous. Always be generous.

Second, disconnect the part of the mind
that wants to answer a ringing phone.

Any fool can do the first, but only a poet
or practiced monk knows the second
is the real work.

10/4/2010 FG