My Thailand

My Thailand is a tiny room resting

between rice fields and quiet roads, a friendly

face smiling as it rides by on a rusty bike, moving

slow, as the Thais tend to do. It’s a walk

through the village, the rising sun poking through

palm trees, a warm breeze that never leaves.

 

My Thailand is a ‘Good morning, teacher’,

rows of dark faces, my arm against theirs.

‘Same, same,’ I say, but not in their mind.

It’s a slight bow and a wai, hands together

at the heart, fingers pointed to the sky.

It’s respect in their speech and looks,

a face forever calm, words forever kind.

 

My Thailand is a golden Buddha within

a gilded temple, quiet except for chimes

that chink in the wind. It’s a line

of monks in saffron robes, solemn and slow,

walking the streets at sunrise.

It’s a Pali chant, a string tied

around our heads. It’s good karma,

a wooden temple, only me as I stay

under the golden Buddha’s gaze, bowing

three times, forehead to the floor, glancing

sideways at the sleeping monk

as he lays wrapped in his robe.

 

My Thailand is a street market,

meat-scented smoke

spiraling through the carts

as the sun goes mute. It’s a fruit

with scarlet spikes, coconut water in a bag,

sweet desserts so cheap they could

give them away. It’s a plastic table

above a plastic stool, the Thais and me

sitting along the highway as we eat.

 

My Thailand is an ancient moat, shamrock water,

fountains that send droplets to the skin of walkers

and riders. It’s a brick wall, sagging

under the weight of seven centuries,

built by a long-ago king. It’s yellow flowers

budding in a tree, trunk wrapped

in a sacred sash, a life-saving ring.

 

My Thailand is a coolness

that slips in slowly

behind the rain, two seasons

each day. It’s my students

wrapped in blankets, the coldest winter

in 50 years, they say. It’s a lantern

that goes to greet the stars, and more

that follow as we light small fires

in their center, pushing them up,

hoping the good wishes

come back down to help us thrive

as we move forward in life.

 

My Thailand is the acrid air of April

sitting in the valley. It’s smoke that stings

the eyes, throats, and lungs, fires

that clear old fields away.

It’s watching the mountains disappear

behind smoke and smog, praying for rain

so we can see again. It’s riding

motorbikes as we weave through cars,

breathing through masks to help us

if we have to go far.

 

My Thailand is a monsoon rain

when it can’t get any hotter, biting

heavy on metal roofs, greeting

the new season with a festival of water.

It’s clear air, peaks

we can see again, a night

on a rooftop where we watch

the moon gather herself full

in the sky above Chiang Mai.

 

My Thailand is a mountain,

city sentry,

offering shade

as the cloudless sky fades.

It’s the sun, seeing me,

waving a final farewell

as the land moves up

and carries me into another day,

another home,

half a world away.

 

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