BE SMILE DENTIST advertises down on
Soi Anuman Rajadhon.
Next door Anglo East Surety Broker
insures diamonds and gemstones.
Having struggled with the world’s economic crisis,
faced with a shortage of government bailout schemes,
Anglo East has decided on a fundamental solution
and invited ninety-nine monks to come and chant
in this microcosm of pollution.

Here the open sewers allow scavenging rats
to escape the tooth and claw of ravening cats.
The one way street is choked
by two way traffic.
Pavements are blocked
by plastic chairs and tables,
charcoal stoves and washing bowls.
Food-sellers tap into the water mains
and empty refuse and dirty water down the drains,
adding to their universal smell
charcoal smoke, grilled fish, pork and chicken.
It is a jostling compost heap of life
serving everything from bankers to bacteria.

Last night the residents closed the street
and washed and scrubbed it.
In the early morning barriers were erected.
At one end an awning protected
ninety-nine white chairs.
At the other end, another awning covered
tables dressed with white and saffron
along three sides of a square.

Over five hundred people converged
and piled the tables high with offerings;
cooked and uncooked food, new robes,
bananas, sugar, coffee, cakes, tea,
tinned milk, incense, soap and pastry.

Ninety-nine monks filed in
and filled the chairs
with an early morning blaze
of brown and saffron robes.
The faithful knelt or squatted
on pavement and road
to receive the precepts of morality
and listen to the chanting.

By the power of the Buddha
may you all be happy.
By the power of the Dhamma
may you all be happy.
By the power of the Sangha
may you all be happy…….

The monks then filed towards the tables
and made a circuit
around the inside of the square,
while lay people filled their begging bowls
from the other side.
As fast as they were filled,
attendants emptied them
into the large black plastic bags waiting there.
Round and round they went
until at last the tables were completely bare.

The monks returned to their temples.
The people returned the street to the municipality,
rats, cats, bankers and bacteria.
The awnings, chairs and tables
went back to the hiring company.

The monks had received donations.
The people had made merit.
The owners of Anglo East Surety Brokers
had made ninety-nine merit.
The demons of economic crisis
had been exorcised.

(from BAMBOO LEAVES – poetry in Thailand)


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