to Our Mother
long before machines
cut Her circles
into clashing lines
concrete pylons stand.
like stone, dry lingam
once wet with sacred water
now silent monoliths,
in an abandoned petro-chemical graveyard.
monuments to rust factories,
corrugated metal curling
in boiling, benzene heat
life’s web replaced
by chain-link fences,
severed climate cycles
cut up by bolt cutters
slowly crabgrass trespasses
creating seismic cracks
reclaiming concrete slab.
raw yolks dropped
plump into scalding pho broth.
swirl with slimy noodles
until bowl cracks,
bald eagle eggs
crack open on branches,
technicolor chemical glimmer
stripped stick child
cries naked for her mother
amid mangled mangrove stubble
rice farmer face planted in his field
head split by shrapnel,
bursting pregnant with fat maggots
cradling newborn despair
to shriveled breasts,
mother stoically stares
as zippo flicks flames
onto her thatch home
marine curls into mortar crater
surrendering his bowels
to seventeen days of shelling.
shit soaks fatigues
shell of a homesick grunt
grits his teeth,
pushes detonator plunger.
ejaculating into trench mud
guerrilla counts days
in a smoky, feces-filled hole,
like a convulsing uterus
ready to erupt in ambush
predatory hawks cut
dark, clouded sky
until small arms fire
rips fuselage steel shell to flames.
another son falls to earth
to defoliated forest,
careful spotted shells
yellow yolk spilled,
in shrieks of pain,
as womb aborts
before birth’s first breath
in museum glass jar
fishing net unfurling
behind his handhollowed canoe
like a forgotten cobweb resigning to the breeze.
his eyes lost beyond the bow
swirling with the eddies
as the Mekong’s slow muddy flow
unravels buried memories.
each paddle stroke pulling
from the dark current deep inside him
welling up in his cataract glassed eyes
like heavy clouds quivering before a storm.
water drops crawling wet
through the crevices of his cracked creekbed face
quenching the coarse forest of his whitened whiskers
leaving only vacant trails of crusted salt.
swirling in the hypnotic rhythm of the river
memory’s image flashes
like the fiery reflection in the water that night
fleeing falling flames
on the rickety refugee raft
when he was forced to abandon her
on the dirt floor.
she had just learned to walk
the week before.
From 1964-1973 the United States government conducted a “Secret War” in Laos by dropping over 2 million tons of bombs on the countryside, more bombs than in all of WWII.
day long trek
through dry, red dirt stubbled rice paddies
we stumble from blaze sun into our sanctuary,
an ancient monastery.
stale tobacco cloud hangs around
a ring of wrinkled men
pulling long drags from twisted cheroots
eyes like glassed marbles perched in weathered magpie nests.
greetings hanging dead in smoke.
we four foreigners sit.
we hand over our night’s donation
wait silent for monk’s blessing.
only response the quiet crackle of cheap tobacco.
head monk sits plump in circle center,
a step above.
smooth shaven head wrapped in piled-wool brick-red robe
lips fat like Brando in the heat heavy hall.
lost over mountain horizon.
he lights a cigarette.
long effortless pull.
oblivious in distant indifference
solitary finger perches on his plump lip.
lit stick wilting an inch away in anticipation.
slow motion suicide.
thick, still air.
tongue tasting every vapor of leafy paper.
pungent nicotine crawling into sinus cave
spilling cascades out nostril tunnels
like a lazy dragon after a rich feast.
our palms clam
awaiting a blessing.
eyes fixed in eternity.
smoke slow swirling with creases of Buddha’s statuesque smile.
his thoughts rotate like bamboo chimes
turning in tree breeze.
longing for his affection
filter finds finality with a finishing breath.
cigarette vanishes from air.
mumbling in Burmese
he dismisses our presence.
we escape into evenings fresh air
nested in the cast
of Shwedagon’s golden beam
the bronze bell told
many centuries’ sunrise
like an orange peeling in the East,
calling Rangoon’s monks to morning prayer.
her brother drum
beating sunset’s return.
all until the take of Red Coat’s raid
intended to tie her tongue to a mast
bound for smeltering
in London’s imperial furnace,
and pound her into a cannon
for another colonial conquest.
refusing to be reborn a weapon of war
on the final gangplank she slipped her captors
plundging safely to harbor’s floor.
colonial cranks couldn’t budge her
from meditation in the muck.
she patiently awaited
buoyant Burmese bamboo
raft’s swift rescue
returning her to peaceful perch.
singing past’s prayers
great sweet sound
for dawning struggles
The story of the Maha Gandha bell during the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824.
fell to stone floor.
sat up a monk.
silently on hillslope
miniature stone monuments
of an ancient Chinese capital
engraved with mortal characters
forgotten to erosion’s reign
ash grey and grimed
with the soot of commerce
markers of markets long closed.
mothers, merchants, and peddlers
decomposing boxes of bones
silently surrounded by
draped in gossamer-sheer of ghostly industry
alive like British bedpost insect-mesh
catching cool breeze breath
on a stagnant, sticky night
to skyscrapers’ screeching sickle
hammer slam, pulse, and pound.
forging China’s new white steel sun
from the fiery red kiln
rising to burn off mourning’s mist
building bigger boxes
in a race to escape mortality’s gravity
Old poetry posted in college. Consider this the backfile.