LOTUS POND MARKET

Looking neither left nor right,
a proud and sensitive Chinese face,
here by the Lotus Pond Market,
seems a little out of place.
Straight back, head held high,
adjusts her hair with manicured hand;
red panung, blue-and-white print shirt,
manouvres with care her sandalled feet,
as though she has stepped down from a higher band
into the squalor and dirt
of Chumporn Street.
But, as she passes the open shop,
something makes her stop
and look up where
she sees the fat Chinese,
above the street, at her table there.

The Chinese gestures, the girl hesitates,
thinks to walk on, stands and waits;
then steps up with an embarrassed smile
and sits down in the other chair.
The Chinese gives her a deck of cards,
talking all the while,
which the girl shuffles with surprising skill
and hands them back.
Without looking, the Chinese cuts the pack
and deals them professionally,
mostly to herself, occasionally
one or two to the girl, who looks carefully
at the cards she collects.
The Chinese gathers up her hand,
fans them face down
and invites the girl to select.
Hesitating, she takes two
and adds them to her own.
She watches the Chinese who
touches the girl’s cards, talking in a monotone
suddenly broken by a sharp question.
The girl raises her eyes in surprise
and starts to reply,
stops, looks down again
and pronounces one word.
Slowly, she begins to speak.
An eddy of excitement
spirals up and straightens her back.
She points to this card and that
and taps them with delight.
She slaps her knee.
She bangs the table.
She stamps her feet,
bounces up and down on her chair,
laughing and flushed.
The Chinese watches her
with a slowly flowering smile.
The girl chatters on
and, with a final slap,
puts her head back and laughs.
Then she counts out thirty baht
for the Chinese, scrapes her chair
and walks on down Chumporn Street,
looking neither left nor right.

(from BAMBOO LEAVES poetry in Thailand)

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PERFECT ACTION

When the fires are raging,
don’t add fuel
and the two worlds
(the inner and the outer)
subside into their natural state.

When the dogs
of dissension and desire
are sleeping,
don’t wake them
and the world is already cool and quiet.

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CURE

Waiting; the fires grow old
waiting; fears grow bold
waiting; the third eye brightens
waiting; the old mind quietens.

Patiently, the patient heals himself.

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IF THINE EYE BE SINGLE

Your true Self plays tennis
for joy
for fun;
like children dancing
hand in hand
on the sand
in the
foaming breakers.

Two fingers
of the same hand
drumming
an improvised rhythm.

The Egoic Mind plays
everything
to win.

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THE SUDDENLY SEPARATE SPIDER SENTRY

STILLNESS is
the space between movements
the crack in the universe
the gloved hand
with the art
to pull apart
two thin life stitches
and let a stab of nothing in.

An eye
with sky behind
for mind,
a face blind,
a sunflower petal falling
stamen to earth;
or bird-song-bird calling
either side of the path.
No eye to meet your eye.

FACES are petals falling
(bird-song-bird),
tongue shapes are
spaces to be heard.
Behind lip and fall
nothing at all.
Only this petal or that
to choose
to lose
to stare at.

FORGIVE a pronoun’s entry
along a spine,
a suddenly separate spider sentry
wanting to define
his continent of cells,
wanting another
a more than mother brother.
Like whispering shells
sharing a spark
the sun let fall into their dark.

NOTHING will keep nothing warm,
Form alone contents with Form.
And so put out the need
for the note scrawled on the music page,
the cricket in the icicle.

THE FRUIT is in the stone
already grown.
The cells
group to fill already forming shells
to keep out out.
This is where lion lies down with lamb:
in dried skin
dried blood
powdered edges
broken flame
particles on particles the same,
and again
in the bone clutch of the brain,
groupings, twitchings, pullings, tame.

Slippings and slidings on a wet palette.
LEAVE the child to his darkness.

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LISTEN

What is that sound?
Like the trailing of a fan
through a silent anteroom?

It is the murmur of air
ruffling leaves.

It is the herald of the whirlwind
which will strip those leaves from their trees
and wrench the trees from the hillside
and blast the soil from the rocks beneath,
leaving the skeleton of the earth
to bleach and crumble.

And what is that sound?
Like a cascade of pearls
on a silver salver?

It is the rushing of the waterfall
in the Italian garden.
It presages the tempest and the raging ocean
which smashes earth’s boundaries
and drives the rivers back up to their sources,
drowning and destroying everything that lives on air.

And what is that sound?
Like the crackle of dry twigs
under the heavy boots of soldiers?
It is the fire in the hearth,
logs spitting, blue and yellow flame dancing
under the granite lintel.

It is the messenger of the Sun
which will rage and burn the planet
to a cloud of incandescent interstellar dust
for the winds of space to disperse forever.

And what is that sound?
High and plaintive
behind the polished nursery door?
It is the crying of a two-day-old baby.
It tells of the heavy tramp of armies
across the continents of the world
marching to the rhythms
of dark gods
bringing the destruction of cities
and the extinguishing of civilisations.

It is the sound of an empty skull
there in the desert,
abandoned by dog and raven,
dry and bleached and splitting along its seams,
home to gusts of wind
and the occasional locust.

These are the sounds of the end of human endeavour,
the end pages of books,
the silence which silences the symphony.

When the gums shrivel and decay,
the teeth are cracked and broken
and there is to be found no place where the smile
or its shadow has ever been;
no echo of long ago laughter.

This is the sound of eternity.

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POST IMPERIAL BLUES

A terrorist gets his way by violence.

Like Alexander,
he would prefer a city to surrender peacefully.
Like Alexander,
he will destroy it if it doesn’t
and enslave its population.

A successful terrorist,
like a successful leopard,
does not change his spots.

A pugilist can break jaws
but not repair one.
A terrorist can destroy old laws,
but not administer fair ones.
A hunter can kill lions
but not create them.

In Parks Road they kill the innocent
but cannot reinstate them.
(A don can bleed a student’s life to death,
but not give him the kiss of breath.)

The endless chronicle
of massacre and poverty,
ethnic violence and crime
across the map of Africa
reveals the footprints
of successful terrorists
and the statistics
of nine million dead.
Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia.
Zimbabwe, Rwanda,
M’gabe, M’beki, M’ndelia.
Nigeria, Uganda,
Liberia, Congo,
Kenyatta, Omar Bongo.

A leopard cannot change his spots.
A terrorist cannot wash the blood
off his hands.

(from OXFORD BLUES)

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