Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Where Language Leads

It was hot today, so I invited my eighteen-year-
old ESL student into my air conditioned bedroom
for an hour’s tutorial.  I keep the room at
27 degrees C° which is about 80 F° which feels
like a freezer to give you some idea of how hot it is

I have a bunch of sentence completion, fill in
the blank, exercises.  She had trouble with
level three, so we tried level 2 and she had
some trouble with these, so we settled on
level one and these she could do easily.
I use Google translator to make sure she
understands certain words:  kind (as in
sympathetic) relish (as in hotdog relish). 
But toward the end of the hour we came up
with a sentence with “river” in it and I started
telling l her how where I grew up we had
wonderful American Indian names for rivers like
Piscataquog, and Nissitissit and at the same time
we had rivers named Merrimack and mountains
called the Presidential range.  But we also had the
Uncannoonuc Mountians and Lakes Winnipesaukee
and Newfound.  With the computer in front of me
I started looking at images of the these lakes, and
I started to get homesick.  See, I taught at Meredith
at the north end of Winnipesaukee and this is where
I lived at Newfound. “And the Kancamagus Highway,”
I said, “is that a great name, or what?”

When I looked at her eyes were vaguely searching
for meaning.   The Thais have been the only people
here for time out-of-mind and they have never been
ruled by a foreign power.  They have named
everything themselves, except maybe for bank,
beer, and ice cream, words that crept in with
modernity. She couldn’t understand my appreciation
of names other people put on names of things I grew
up with. There is no mystery in the words bank, beer
and ice cream so why should there be in the names
of rivers lakes and mountains?  Words of things
created by God, if there is a God.

“Maybe we could end here,” I said, and as she
left the room. I shut my computer down, I turned
it off and even watched as it powered down:
shutting down, closing. . . . off.

FG  5/3/2015