Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Thursday, April 30, 2015


In one room of a large oncology hospital
near the Victory Monument, which is where
most all the vans from the north and northeast
of the Thai countryside end up, are six beds
and eight “sois” or spaces between beds.
Soi is Thai for alleyways and on the floor of one
of these sois my wife is sleeping, keeping faith
with a cousin who is undergoing chemo and
languishing in much the same way my wife’s
father did when I got here ten years ago.

This cousin comes from my wife’s mother’s
village some hours to the north and west.
“Good God,” I asked, “doesn’t she have some
one in her village –where she’s lived all her
life – to sit with her?”  My wife doesn’t answer,
nor will she ever answer.

I like this cousin who was one of the very few
of my wife’s cousins who would look at the
situation, roll up her sleeves and start sweeping,
mopping, picking up or cooking without being
told to.  When a hundred or so weasels show
up on your lawn for a party you tend to remember
the good weasels.

My wife has shuttered her salon for three
days now and outside of sleeping at the hospital
I know she is spending money I don’t have.
When I get mad I dance like Donald Duck and
yell things unintelligible to a Thai.

“I don’t like it when you yell,” she says.  I yell:
Well, well!

She pauses and then says, “When she dies there
will be some insurance money for me.”

Money is a part of every Thai transaction:  birth,
marriage, and death.  But the Thais are
superstitious to a fault.  I once saw my wife,
 as the sun set at the Night market in Ayutthaya,
wipe all her for-sale clothes with a hundred Baht
note to bring good luck.

Home is the place where, when you have to go
there, they have to take you in, I guess.  In Thai 
families,though the truth may be closer to the dying 
can say“Red Rove, Red Rover, send my wife 
Plaupplung – whohas had more success in life 
than I – right over . . .
and you must obey.

FG  4/30/2015

There are 65 million of my wife’s cousins living in Thailand.  This is just one of their stories.

I’m taking some liberty with the word soi here.  Many businesses in Bangkok are located on soi 15, etc.  The Thais do have a word for aisle.

If you stay in a hospital, it is common here, maybe even required, for a family member to attend the patient.

Dogs Can’t Edit

I had been without A/C for three days.
Finally, three guys showed up to clean
my unit.  They worked for forty-five minutes
or so, charged me ten bucks and left
before the first storm arrived.  I walked
out to my wife’s beauty shop, called the
American Salon for reasons unbeknownst
to me, before the first storm hit.  I have
seen torrential down powers in NH and
even in Saudi Arabia and they get your
attention wherever they happen, but
humans can put parentheses around these
storms: they will have a beginning and an
end. But dogs cannot edit sentences like this. 
I have only one old dog now.  He is an arch
watchdog, but if anyone in the family looks
at him cross-eyed he cowers and slinks off
someplace. He is frightened to death of
thunder storms. He was just outside the
sliding glass doors of my wife’s shop, shivering
with fear. Every time there was a thunder clap
he let out a little yip. I went out and tried
to console him but when I touched him
he jumped.  So I just stood beside him
looking out at the strings of water off
the corrugated roof. It was like looking
out through those clear plastic strips
over the refrigerated dairy case.  But
God knows what the world looks like
to a scared dog who can’t edit his life
sentence.  I feel the temperature dropping.
Fear is fear.

FG April 2015 

Added "I feel the temperature dropping." to coalesce the A/C, dairy case and zero-at-the-bone dog-style.
I have a hard time editing on Blogger.  All I can do is delete and replace.