Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Friday, January 28, 2011

What We Leave

Nearing sixty years on
the halftones of my classmates
are sedate and in their solemn
thumbnails arranged in rows
and columns they seem more
a cemetery layout than a
glossy year book page.

Under each tombstone
is an epitaph of sorts. So and so
leaves a broken gym locker or an
unwanted seat in Mrs. Zeller’s home
room to someone now no one
remembers or cares to know why
the gifter thought the gift right.

I turn the page and
remember how we never trusted
anyone over thirty. What goes
around comes around and now
we all mistrust anyone under thirty,
for the under classes have marooned us
on a barren digital island without
even bottles to put our notes for
help and hope into.

I turn the page and
now comes Bob Barnard, my best
friend Doug’s three-year-older brother.
His thick Fuller-brush hair is combed in
An Elvis-like DA. He is a baby-faced,
good natured, no-count brawler,
and his tight smile belies clenched teeth.

I wish I could
line up all the old Ponzi-scheme pooftahs,
all the billionaire Zucky-boys, and all
the pols who show a good leg
to spend a minute with ole Bob. He’d put
the fear of something America’s lost
in them: not right or wrong, but the
change that comes to boys when
the fires of hell touch you for
the first time and touch you just
for the shear fun of it.
Social networks my ass I think.

Bob spent six years before
giving up trying to graduate.
Below his picture it simply
Says, Bob Barnard leaves.

I sigh and think, well that, too.

My friend Doug died two years ago. His brother Bob Barnard wasn’t malicious, wasn’t mean spirited, wasn’t a bully, and while fighting wasn’t his first impulse, it certainly wasn’t far behind whatever his first impulse was. He just enjoyed fighting the same way women enjoy shopping. Both pursuits are inexplicable to my mind. We still have women clothes horses, but those rare characters like Bob have left and taken with them a dimension of vitality and drive that America could use today.

One of Chunky’s uncles lives a couple of houses down (maybe 300 feet from us). He is a contactor and puts up three-story buildings and structures using just a crew of hand laborers. When he was first married and building his own compound, he had to remove a huge tree trunk from where he wanted his driveway. It proved to be such a difficult task that when he finally extricated the strangely gnarled root that he took it out back and made it into a shrine (the root is the size of a Desoto). He honored it as a worthy opponent and built a house for it, put gold leaf all over it, and has the monks come and bless it every year and goes to some expense to dress it up on the holidays. Now, he seems a perfectly normal guy to me. When something doesn’t work, I tell Chunky to call Sawang. More often than not his wife Jaow, who looks like an alumnus of Roller Derby shows up to rewire the sump pump or God knows what.

Bob Barnard is like Sawang’s tree root. America no longer honors stubbornness born of naturally occurring, fun loving stupidity. Hawthorne would know what I’m talking about. Sigh. FG

all rights reserved by the author Forrest Greenwood