Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Monday, February 22, 2016

Takhli Hospital, February 18, 2016





The men’s ward has sixteen beds, all metal,
all white, all high (you need a footstool to mount
one), all with wrestling mats for mattresses.
The beds are operated with difficulty by hand
cranks.  The beds I am guessing are WWII vintage.

This gallery is un-air conditioned and
has nine large white, metal ceiling fans
set on high.  In the mid-afternoon when
I moved in, the blades are transparent like
insect wings.

To my right is a semi-comatose man in
his nineties who weighs probably 80 pounds.
Day and night he fills the whole room with
incoherent moans.  His daughter, herself already
an old woman, repositions the old man on the bed.
When she lifts him with an arm under his legs and
one under his shoulders, she looks as if she is
moving a Scottish bagpipe.

To my left is a man still with a full head of hair.
He is probably in his eighties and I begin to
wonder what he is doing here, but when I see
his eyes I wonder if dementia might be the problem.

He is attended by three full grown daughters, and
two grammar school boys.  As the light begins
to leave the adults, try to catch some sleep by
leaning, almost as in prayer, on the bed’s  railing.
The young boys crawl under the bed where
they will sleep on a thin jute carpet.  Sleep is
not on the agenda, though, as they have a smart
phone and are watching a movie.  Their  lit smiling
faces seem self-contained as in a Norman Rockwell
painting between the shadowy adult legs.

My wife, a veteran of many vigils like this, comes
prepared as if she were going to the beach.  She has
an extra fan, an aluminum lounge to sleep between
the beds on and two shoulder bags of clothes and
goodies.

I am ill and can’t sleep.  I watch a woman fan her
husband with a bamboo fan.   He is middle-aged,
but has a colostomy bag.  I watch her fan him,
not for an hour or two, but all night long.  Around
six in the morning, she will walk by the foot of my
bed smiling.

At 2 am a nurse comes and shuts off the last
overhead light.  Above the fans continue to hum
but their blades in the dimness have become
invisible.

FG           2/22/2016

I work into a poem by “seeing.”  I’m not sure this is a poem, but it is a record of what I saw.  I know the Thai (Asian) health care system would not work in the West.  But with the call for universal health care, we ought to spend some time thinking about what health care actually means.

I have no idea if these people are wives, daughters, or sons (yes, there were grown men performing their vigil, too), but I have no doubt of their sense of devotion.  

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