Floating market, Bangkok
Early morning street markets. Mists and half darkness.
Portable charcoal stoves flare up and mix their smoke
with the smells of pork and fish and sewers.
Monks carry begging bowls, blind musicians donation boxes
to lighten their darkness.
Cobblers display their boxes of tools.
A man with a treadle sewing machine mends anybody’s anything.
Stalls are piled high with fish, twenty different kinds of fruit,
sticky rice, steaming pots of vegetables.
Brooms, clothing, lottery tickets, buddha amulets, shoes, bicycles, motorbikes.
Buyers, sellers, beggars.
Policemen with revolvers at the hip. Dogs, cockroaches, rats.
A fortuneteller has spread out a brightly patterned cotton cloth, her cards neatly laid out.
A multilayered world. Disabled beggars with plastic cups,
black Ferraris and a snow-white Bugatti Veyron;
a swimming pool which is filled with ice
to celebrate every New Year's Day;
westernised nose jobs and eyelid surgery; massage parlours;
gold and silversmiths, emeralds, rubies and star sapphires;
ladyboys and budget sex changes;
ghosts and Spirit Doctors;
mediums offering lunch to the spirits that possess them;
body snatchers lurking below motorway bridges;
menus with one-day dry pig and son-in-law's testicles.
Everywhere, temples thunder their disenchanting message that all this teeming world, its glamour, excitement and misery, is impermanent, not-self and suffering.
Here, the lives of men and women are rounded not with a sleep but a silence.
There is a bareness to their lives, an ordinariness, which is itself extraordinary.
There is poetry (and humour) in everyday happenings even without poetic language.
They reveal dimensions and levels of being of which we are usually unaware.
Because we don’t believe in them.
But we tend to see what we believe.
There is poetry in Thai, Pali and Chinese names,
in their meanings
and the music of their sounds.
The people and incidents are recorded as they were.
The perspective and tone varies.
BAMBOO LEAVES (opening poem)
From the sun’s fierce heat,
the bamboo grove offers much relief.
Each leaf is uniquely made
and all are quite the same.
The whole provides a living shade;
why give each leaf
its individual name?
The mind is such
a lonely, fragile thing,
so easily afraid
of what it can’t believe in.
Yet every time we make-believe,
belief is truly made.
BAMBOO LEAVES (closing poem)
Their leaves of grass* emerge and fade;
with windblown rustling tongues converse.
The grove has grown throughout the universe,
spreads everywhere its pleasant living shade;
creating north south east and west
(the fierce, unending struggle to be best);
The variety is unimaginable,
the sameness unknowing
The grove is all its roots and culms and leaves,
yet every leaf contains the whole,
every living thing that breathes
and all its universes, as well.
All things are perfect
in their subatomic details
and reach out blindly to direct
networks of rhyzomes and roots
carrying new, all different, identical shoots
to every part of infinite space
until the chain of being fails.
And every leaf has a human face,
and every culm is a human heart.
At the end of a kalpa,
the grove gathers its energy
in an explosion of mass flowering;
an outward showering
of fruit and seed.
The clones wither and die,
the culms dry
and crumble into food
to fulfill the eternal need
as a new regeneration germinates
and the whole grove reincarnates.
* Bamboos are part of the Poaceae, The Grass Family.