Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Music For The Eldest Daughter

The eldest daughter is expected
to take care of her parents here
as she is in many societies, but
in rural Thai families where younger
siblings and even her own married
off-springs leave home only to drop
off their own babes to be raised at
the family homestead while they try
to make a go in the wider world,
being the home bound eldest daughter
entails, a great deal more.

My wife left school after the fourth
grade before puberty hit to work
on a paving crew and she navigated
the rest of her life on “street smarts,”
which left her as an adult trying
to swim in a tidal pool after the water
had ebbed.

“She takes money out of your wallet,”
my American sister screams, “All I
can say is you’re the big dummy!”
Yes, she does this, and refuses to talk
about money at all.  She has secret
schemes and never asks my advice. 
She’ll sink or swim by herself - those
are the rules of the eldest daughter.

There is her grandfather, her mother, two
daughters, a grandchild, two dogs,
four cats, orchids, her salon business,
and now, of course after her husband ran
off a decade ago, there’s me who all
depend upon her.

Yet, for all her schemes and petty lies,
no customer can come too early or too late
for her to do hair, nails or sell clothes too.
Today, I walked out and slid the glass door.
to her shop open.  She stood behind a
customer while combing out straight
black hair and holding an upright,
screaming, industrial-grade hair dryer.

When she finally saw me, she clicked off
the dryer and asked “Pie Nigh” [go where?].
I shrugged and took a step back outside.
She turned the hair dryer back on, cocked
her head and winked at me. For a second
she seemed to be dancing to music.

I grew up in the US and am tone deaf
to such music even if I could hear it above
the dryer’s roar.  I slid the glass door
closed on her shop, on her customers,
on her two helper daughters, and on her
diabetic mother sleeping on the floor.

I smiled at her through the glass.
No, I can’t hear the music, and if
you’re from the west you probably
can’t either.  I can’t hear it, but
I know it’s there.

FG 2/7/2014
A friend, the saying goes, is someone who knows you and still is.  I know this isn’t much of a Valentine Day’s poem, but my Thai wife is amazing.  I would be lost without her.