Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mrs. Zeller c. 1962

About the time I was old enough
to get my license I knew that an
old farm house you entered via
a mud room, even though it was
summer, was going to be as cold
as a witch’s teat come winter.

Mrs. Zeller’s house, right on
the circle in Dumbarton, was
one of these un-insulated wood
frame buildings.

Already past retirement age when she
taught me French, I remember all her
classroom pets were girls who repaid
her by cheating unmercifully.  On cold
winter afternoons, Jonathan Sink who
sat in the back of the class could make
a sound just like the wind whistling
through drafty windows, and her hearing,
not being what it had once been,
she couldn’t pick out this impish boy,
although we could all see her trying.

Mrs. Zeller was tall with white
hair and she wore glasses that I realize
now foreshadowed Dame Edna.
She was domineering and faculty
and students all gave her a wide berth.

For a month that summer, Billy
Whipple and I were tutored three times
a week at her house.  It wasn’t my idea
nor Billy’s. It was, I’m sure, her idea. 
She needed a few more students to make
a class of nine or so, and we were her
victims because we weren’t up to speed
for the torture she planned for her up
coming French-three class.

Mrs. Zeller would be pleased that I
ended up thirty years later working with
some French Aerospatiale engineers who
were more than happy to help me with the
language so long as I used graphic turns
of scatological, sexual or sodomical phrases.

I don’t remember much of our sessions,
but I do remember Mr. Zeller racing
through the living room in a plaid,
long sleeve shirt on his way to put on
the record Telstar, which believe it or not
was at the beginning of the British music

I knew of Telstar, of course, the first
time TV pictures had been beamed
“across the pond” by satellite.  I had
actually seen a black and white film
in the gym of the first transmission. 
A line of techno-stiffs sitting in folding
chairs, were introduced with dead-pan,
scientific reverence.  But one guy
on the end made a surreptitious
wave when the camera moved from
him.  That little wave I think now
was the butterfly in Japan flapping
its wings that would cause a Tsunami
of follow-your-bliss in the US . . .
but who knew of such things then.

With the unearthly clavioline notes
droning away, Mrs. Zeller looked
at Billy and me with hooded eyes that
darted sideways, back and forth.  Her
full lips seemed chewing on some
pulpy French verb when she got up
and went into the room that Mr. Zeller
had disappeared into, and stopped the
Telstarical music once and for all.

I remember this now because
this week another craft Voyager I
is on the verge of leaving the solar
system after thirty-five years of
space flight, and it dawned on me
that I was alive when the moon was
earth’s only satellite. 

Sputnik, Explorer, Telstar . . . we don’t
even bother to name satellites anymore,
and there’s so much junk up there now
I’m glad Voyager 1 left when it did
or it might have ricocheted like a pin-ball
on leaving earth to who knows where.

I’m glad I remember Mrs. Zeller, too,
for memory is the only safe place to be
as we travel out into the silent vault of
cold space . . . to who knows where.

FG  December 12, 2012

All rights reserved by the author Forrest Greenwood


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this Forrest..having known all of the characters in this Poem..may I share this with Billy Zeller..Mrs. Zellers Son who still lives in Dunbarton today ??

April 8, 2013 at 7:08 AM  

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