Monday, 30 July 2012



MEO TRIBES
He has dirty feet;
“Washing is dangerous
wash much, sicken and die.”
He wears a short black jacket
and floppy black trousers.
A large silver lock hangs round his neck.
She has a blue jacket
and a tightly pleated kilt
of hemp and cotton
with heavily embroidered
and weighted black sashes.
They stand quite still,
look without curiosity
but with open smiles.

Every three or four years their village
moves to a new part of the jungle
and burns the trees and undergrowth.
In the mixture of ash and soil
they grow maize and opium.
They are always on the move.
A hundred years ago they were
driven out of Burma and Yunnan.
They have been driven out of the valleys.
As Hill tribes they are objects of curiosity.
Formerly, the British Government in Burma,
the French in Laos,
the Siamese and Chinese
all bought their opium.
Now their former customers
tell them opium is bad,
they must grow tea or coffee.
They still grow opium
and the Thai police sent to stop them
tax them instead.
Sometimes they pay the tax in opium.
To them it is all the same;
being moved on,
selling their crops,
bribes and taxes
and being poor.

They want to live, they have to pay.
They are objects of curiosity to tourists
and cash crops for missionaries.


From Bamboo Leaves by Brian Taylor

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