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

Monday 16 July 2012

A CHINESE GIRL IN THE SEA AT SAMET

Tropical Beach in Thailand


A CHINESE GIRL IN THE SEA AT SAMET

She smiles as only the young smile.
What is your name?
“Ah Li.”
Where are you from?
“Shanghai.”
What is your work?
“I am an accountant.”
What is your religion?
“I have none.”
She smiles.
“When we are young
they teach us,
Don’t believe in God.
Believe in the Committee.”
She smiles.
“My mother is a Buddhist.”
What kind?
“My mother has a Buddha.
She burns incense.
She kneels.
She asks what she wants.”
She smiles.
“When I am young,
I have blood cancer.
My mother pray to her Buddha.
I get well!
Maybe one day
I am a Buddhist.”
She smiles.

The sun is getting hot.
She turns, dives under the water
and swims towards the raft.

*

UNDER THE DARK OF THE VINE VERANDA

Coral dust blows
off the white beach
onto the slatted table.

Overhead, a trellis
of brown wood and green leaves
and, pushing through, dense clusters
of pink and white
Ladies’ Finger Nails,
sweet scented with a trace of lime.

An orchestra of cicadas,
the rustling of a million
tiny silver bells.
A fine sprinkling sound.
Like frost.

*

CHRISTMAS DAY ON SAMET ISLAND

begins in the half dark
with a six inch huntsman spider
exploring my chair,
ends with a Laotian girl,
with all the charm
of sibylline eyes,
wearing a fourteen inch centipede
as a writhing, living bracelet
that digs its claws into her slender arm.

In between,
courtesy of Thomas Edison,
there are Greensleeves, carols,
white Christmases,
and red-nosed reindeer
in different kinds of English
and Chinese fireworks.


From Bamboo Leaves by Brian Taylor



Thursday 5 July 2012

FAST LANE

Golden Pagoda in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

In Uma Devi‘s celestial playground
in Moulding Lane,
the architecture bubbles upwards
in pastel plastic ganglions,
culminating in a pantheon
of opulent deities staring unsmiling into space.
At the entrance a stall sells you
African yellow marigold garlands,
a bunch of green bananas,
a bottle of oil, a coconut;
for fifty baht a tray.
You take it down the passageway,
past gilded animals and deities
and sellers of miniature (and not so miniature) idols,
until you come to the inner sanctum.
Here a hospitable sign tells you
DO NOT ENTER
and a Brahmin takes your tray,
dabs a blob of red
randomly on your forehead
and sends you blissfully on your way.
Your offerings are discreetly returned
to the stall that sells them
for economic(al) recycling.
If the secular world had learned
the secret of Uma’s lesson
in husbandry and housekeeping,
we might have avoided this downward-spiralling
Great Recession.

GREAT SIVA NIGHT
proclaims the poster on the gate.
The Committee has chosen the date;
and, for the benefit of those seekers of bliss
who might not come through a whole night of this,
has divided it into three-hourly sessions, four in all.

Devotees are mortal,
gods (and goddesses), indefatigable.


*

CHINESE WHISPERS


She sits in her room
with one hundred and eight
wooden beads
strung on a thread.
Every time she says “Buddho”
she moves another bead.
When Luang Por came to Bangkok,
her father took his family to
Soi Sailom to meet him.
“It is difficult to meet an Arahat
these days. You should ask for a boon”

She could not think
of anything to ask him.
Luang Por said,
“This family is shining!”
Now she is sixty-seven,
married to a retired general,
who eats and sleeps.

“Buddho.” she moves another bead.

*

LIGHTING CANDLES

“If I make merit by doing good
and share it with others,
how much will I be left with?”

“All of it.”

“How can that be?
If I have a hundred baht
and share it with you,
how much will I have?”

“Fifty.”

“How so?”

“Merit is not money.
It is Light.
If you light a candle
and share your light
with your friends
by lighting their candles,
you have no less light;
but the room itself becomes brighter.
So it is with merit.
The world becomes brighter.”



From Bamboo Leaves by Brian Taylor