The coloured poster on the bus shelter is specific;
the Cremation of the Great Teacher
will be held at the Temple of the Celestial Jewel.
Donations are invited for coffins, funerals
and scattering the ashes in the river.

In the middle of Chulalongkorn Hospital,
is a glass-walled air conditioned building
with a scattering of shoes outside the door.
At the desk inside, three smiling faces in a row
wait for more Great Teachers to appear
and occupy the vacant chairs.

I hand them a copy of my passport
and two photographs.

The conditions are reasonable.
I can be any age.
I must not have had any organs removed
or limbs cut off.
I must not die in a road accident
or from cancer.
I must not need an autopsy.
But I must get a death certificate
signed by a Registrar.

They will collect my body
within a radius of fifty kilometres
or I can bring it myself
within twenty-four hours.
If it is longer than this,
it must be kept in cold storage in a hospital.
But not in my fridge.
It must not be injected with formaldehyde.

While this is being explained,
the eldest smile is gently snipping away
at my photographs with her scissors.
With every snip, I can sense my life slipping away.
It is a comfortable feeling.
When they are the size of thumbnail images,
I sign the form and it goes
with the photos to her sister smiles.
While they are being processed,
she passes the time telling me
why her elder brother
prefers living in London to Bangkok.

At last I am given a card.
It has a small red cross on it.
It has my name and photograph
and is encapsulated in plastic.
It bears two signatures:
the Head of Body Parts Collection Department
and the Director General of the Hospital.
It is a Body Donation Card for Medical Study.
It is not transferable and I am number 11651.
It is not a credit card.

It entitles me to become
a Great Teacher when I die.
When I have nothing left to teach,
I will be given a free funeral.
I will be cremated
in The Temple of the Celestial Jewel
and my ashes will be scattered.

I must telephone the hospital as soon as I die
and I will need a Death Certificate.
This will help me prove that I am really dead.

I put it next to my driving license
and make a mental note
not to have a road accident
since this would invalidate me.

I step outside into the heat
and look for shoes
into which to put my feet.

(from BAMBOO LEAVES poetry in Thailand)


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