Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mr. Severence

Just out of grad school, he had the look of
a liberal collegian and not the down at-the-
heel teachers we were use to.  He still took
his history and civics neat, no ice, no mixer.

In October of 1962, he brought a radio
to the upstairs classroom and told us to be
quiet.  We listened as a Russian ship
steamed toward the American blockade.
This was in the old school building that
had vents on the roof to draft up air from
the floors below.  I always thought the vents
looked like indian heads with a vane for
feathers on top.  They moaned and sighed
as they turned in the clear Goffstown wind. 

He stood with his right foot on a radiator
by a large, open window at the front
of the classroom, looking out at the
beautiful autumn day without saying or
teaching a word.  Kennedy, Khrushchev,
McNamara and others must have swirled
in his mind as he supported his chin in
a knuckled-up palm, his elbow supported
itself by his cocked knee on the radiator.

At seventeen I was in a waking dream that
only sleep itself could dissolve. The American
flag draped from a stick above the sharpener
and seemed to prick the empty space we sat
in, but not my imagination.  The moving pieces
were beyond my comprehension as they are
today.  Countries tumble off one another
in a kaleidoscope of colors.  Moral positions
dissolve like white sugar in black coffee.
Bears dance.  Beards are preened. Samaritanism
For Dummies fails to sell.

All I can see now is Mr. Severence looking out
an open window.  His eyes squint, his lips are
tense.  His head bobbles as if he is forming an
argument, a lesson plan, but all he does is listen
to a voice on the radio while looking out and
perhaps thinking remember this, remember this.

FG September 7, 2013

All rights reserved by the author Forrest Greenwood.

I think the teacher’s name was Donald Severence, but I’m not sure. Drove a green Saab, lived in Francistown with his wife and small child.

There is the same unease in the air today, no?

Poetry is the thing that cannot fail.


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