Poetry from Thailand

Original poetry written in and about rural Thailand.

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Location: Chong Khae, Nakhonsawan, Thailand

Friday, December 30, 2016

prose and poetry

I’ve read a blogger on poetry define poetry as everything which isn’t prose is poetry.  This sounds backwards to me.  Sometimes prose aspires to be poetic.  I’ve recently finished a novella called the Vestry (the text is on Mydoomsdaybook blog). It is a piece which is like a shattered mirror in that it still reflects the real world, but in no particular order.  The beginning of Chapters 1, 8 and 11 aspire to be poems, so I post them here.

The Vestry - one

In my memory, I see the church from street level.  It’s the last week in November on a raw NH evening.  A mist runs this way and that in the air.  It may or may not turn to snow, but as the road surface cools it will surely turn to black ice.  The church rises above the spotlight on its front, rises into the black sky.  It looks to me like a huge bird, a black swan with its head raised skyward and its wings like a cape to the ground.  That or perhaps the spire is the hat of a Puritan walking the night woods alone, totally alone.

The Vestry – eight

Joy, depression, memory shift this way and that like mist in the cold November night air.  My mind’s not right.  History itself is fungible; there is no beginning, middle or end.  In old age, months when I was happy seem interspersed with barren, joyless months.  It is as if someone had shuffled all the calendar pages of my life and now I turn them over like tarot cards hoping for a sign, a sequence, an algorithm.  But the wisdom that comes with old age is that it’s useless to look for omens that tell the future.  The only real omens are the ones that plumb the past.

The Vestry - eleven

In my memory, the covered train bridge at the heart of Goffstown was a monstrosity.  Before it burned, it had been neglected and unused for years.  Some planking was missing from the walkway and people had stuffed trash here and there inside its walls.  In August the year it burned, the creosote, oils and tar paper roof made it a funeral pyre waiting to be lit.  People who want to restore the bridge today never took care of it before it burned.  They were happy to let it rot in place.  If some kid had been hurt climbing up its inside, the town fathers would probably have torn it down.  Horse and buggy covered bridges are romantic, a place to duck into during a shower, but covered, wooden train bridges are an example of engineering overreach.  They are a mistake.

I suppose the acute angle the train bridge formed with the cement car bridge was a model rail roader’s dream of an action scene.  But history is not, I think, a model railroad.

In my memory I stand one last time looking into the bridge’s raised up shark-mouth.  I look through its inner darkness to the tracks vanishing in the distance and confess to a feeling of nostalgia.  But it is a boy’s longing, not an old man casting his mind back upon something that had meaning or value.

Now you don’t have to read the whole thing.  My cousin, perhaps my only reader, seems unhappy with the ending, but this is just another shard of the broken mirror that is out of place and out of time.  The “Go on” is the same expression of surprise that is in my foreword.  Poetry is an expression of surprise, not facts and this is my definition du jour of poetry.

Happy New Year!

I very rarely see snakes here, but there was a green pit viper curled up in my kitchen jalousie window this morning – a good omen I hope.

FG   12/31/2016