Poem Posted May 20, 2010

Posted: May 21, 2010 in Samples of My Writing

Poem for Thailand this sad week.

9 Ghosts
Chiang Mai, November 2008

In Thailand there are nine ghosts
In every house
The most feared being
The ghost of the threshold
So Thais make sure never to step
On a threshold for fear of angering its ghost.

In Chiang Mai we wait to learn if there will
Be a coup. Two airports in Bangkok
Closed nearly a week now
And yet calm remains here in Chiang Mai
The city’s winter warmer than a Canadian summer
And we walk the streets
Learn to speak Thai in our hotel
And I learn to count in Thai
Our room Sii, Sawng, Soon,
music every time I ask for our key.

My muscles release, relax
Yet the country is on the verge.
Worried friends email from Canada
And when we hear planes or fire crackers
We know nothing for certain.
The news grinds down the world
with images once kept hidden
And I wonder whose life is not
Shattered with each daybreak
Heartache the size of the fullest moon.

And yet we wake each day hopeful
Believe that somewhere
In these long rows of days
Some truer version will emerge.
Finally it comes down
To this one precious hatchling
We see before us.
We turn on the TV and
See a terrorist attack in Mumbai
Bodies and blood everywhere
Smoke, fire, and fleeing people
Others crouched down to avoid gunfire
But unable to leave.

I think of all the thresholds I have
Stepped over, how many ghosts
I have angered
And now I make sure to step
Over every one
Learn each day a new word in Thai
Can count to a million
Know how to ask for the bill
To say thank you
All the words for yes and no
Who to wai and who not
When to say thank you when not to.
All of this is meaningful,
What one should do with time.
Be a good guest and learn about ghosts
Behind it all the noise of politics
Voices on megaphones
Speeches shouted into the night
All of that matters and doesn’t matter
And I wait for it to fade
To be something new
Perhaps just on TV and
Easy to turn off.

The ghost of the threshold
Has always been there
Whether I believe it nor not
The same for the other eight ghosts
Tidying up a house
There in the dark somewhere
Just out of reach
Doing their ghostly work.
I should have known that all along
Should have known
It’s the ghosts
That move about in the dark
We just need to know what is ours and
What is theirs
I think about the multitude blockading
The Bangkok airport
And wonder how they sleep
What dreams they have
How long before they too
Become one of those nine ghosts
Moving about one house or another
Their chores no different
Than those of the living.

  1. cforce says:

    Robert I just stumbled on to your blog, and ended up spending a great deal of time, will be back. Enjoyed every minute of it

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