The fisherman sees the fish
but not its pain
until as fish
he swims this way again.

The rich see not the poor
they have invented
and, not contented,
strive ceaselessly for more.

Abraham’s descendants
fight for their promised land,
and while they swarm and fight like ants
whose blood seeps into desert sand?

“My village against the world,
my family against the village,
my brother and I against my family.
Myself against my brother.”

“Nature red in tooth and claw”
contradicts Messiah’s Law.

Virus, germ
and parasitic worm
burrowing in blindness
do not respect the vegan’s kindness.

Breathing is the road to the breathless;
seeing the obvious is the path to the deathless.


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A kiss
in time
saves a climb.


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Who are the dead
I have not reached
(or been unable to find)
who wait with such patience
in quiet corners of my mind?

Seek with the mind
you get thoughts.
Seek with the heart
you get understanding.
Speak with thoughts
you reach a man’s mind.
Speak with understanding
you reach his heart.


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while you are alive,
You honestly (and steadfastly)
add two and two together
and get five.

finally (and lastly)
when you are safely dead
you will find that all those extra ones
will surely stand you in good stead.

Ask Darwin.


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One candle is a light unto itself.
One hundred candles
illuminate a room.
In a room,
one candle is
a light unto itself.

Uposatha day at Wat Katum,
seven old ladies and one old man
taking eight precepts
for a day
to keep the Niraya fires at bay.
“I undertake
to observe the precept
to refrain from
killing living beings.
“I undertake
to observe the precept
to refrain from
taking things not given.
“I undertake………”

An old monk gives a sermon:
“A silent sandoth arahant is blamed.
Articulate Sariputta is blamed.
Economical speech of Ananda is blamed.
Even silent Buddhas cannot escape censure.
Criticising others
burns the mind,
wards off wholesome
states of mind.”

A new and lofty concrete sala hall
is being built to house a replica
of a famous Buddha image.
In this, they say, Luang Po Sothorn
floated, in a miracle,
along the river Bang Pakhong
to Chachoengsao
after the sacking of Ayudhaya
a city of a million souls.

Eleven o’clock,
a bell sounds.
Seven monks follow their abbot
to walk a hot and dusty concrete road
past a rabble of dogs with mange,
to Jai Hieng’s house.
Sabbe sankhārā dukkhā
On the anniversary
of Jai Hieng’s father’s death.
Sabbe sankhārā aniccā.

Off the road,
concrete lintels laid end to end
make a causeway.
On the left a lake
once watered orchards.
The lake remains,
abandoned to monsoon and sun
and the struggle to survive.
The orchards have gone
to make way for a ramshackle prison,
an intensive chicken farm.
A hundred yards
of crude, wooden Auschwitz.

Deserted now.
Last week’s screams
and cackles and sudden death
are an uneasy silence
this hot afternoon.

By government decree,
the chickens have gone.
A thousand and more,
stuffed alive into bags,
thrown into a pit.
A powdering of white lime
on freshly dug earth
where the tractor has been.

A mass grave.

To protect humans
from chicken flu.

In Jai Hieng’s house.
the monks sit,
on coloured rattan mats,
along adjacent walls.
Fans are trained on them.
A white string links them,
hand to hand,
from abbot’s hand,
to Ting Lee’s urn
in the adjoining room.

They chant
of suffering, impermanence
and insubstantiality.
Two old ladies and one foreigner
listen to Pali words
spoken by Buddha himself
over two and a half thousand years ago.
In a chant
which vibrates
the heart chakra
like a lute string.

No-one else listens.

Food is being prepared.
Everyone shouts commands
and counter-commands.
Plates clatter.
Cutlery rattles.
Monks chant.

They do not need to listen
to a language
which, like the liturgies
of medieval Christendom,
is recognised,
but, by the laity,
not understood.

It is enough that the monks are here,
large and loud,
like a massive, virtual reality,
Television Screen.

Afterwards, lunch.
We sit and watch the monks eat.
As in Bangkok
the rich will pay
to watch the king dine.

Curries, rice, shrimps,
asparagus, carrots, peas,
tofu, sticky rice, dom yam,
lotus seeds, luk deui,
makaam, thets, jackfruit, mangoes.

(But no chicken.)


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When Fortune comes at last
to claim his Hostage
and all the days and hours are counted
and the fragile papers, envelopes and postage
and all those in-between days are discounted;
and Pluto has reclaimed
Eurydice’s earthly portion
and Thracian Maenads
have left her Orpheus dismembered,
what will be saved
from all this carnage and distortion?
What living fragments
will still then be remembered?


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China-bound girl,
not-yet-happiness-made-her-found girl.
Airport-station-taxis girl,
brand-new-outside-sensations girl.
Three-plus champagnes-anything can-do girl,
anywhere-go preferably-Katmandu girl.
From-past-sadness-ever-fleeing girl,
balanced-on-the-very-edge-of seeing girl.
Wonderful-from-the beginning girl,
so-afraid-of–losing-she-must-be-always-winning girl.
So-shy-her-confidence-is overwhelming girl,
she-keeps-her-captains-firmly-at their-helms-ing girl.

China-bound girl,
Love at her heels, how does she think what she knows she feels?
Glides like an image one flower ahead of sorrow,
floating through sun-mist to yesterday’s tomorrow.

Through the moving shadows of this world’s blind-man’s buff
she has cared and been cared for (but not loved-too-much enough).
In her mind what pleasures lead her from A to Z?
In her heart what treasures are silenced by her head?

China-bound girl!
carrying through Customs (for the fun of it),
a bucket of water with the sun in it.


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