Part One

Spread in the brightness of morning, as ever
entangled and pounced on in a strange bed,
       Mae-Ying the beautiful is laughing and playing
with her small heart pounding as on plate glass,
and her bought legs beating and beating as a bird does
       for the lift and for the fervor till we are dropped,
all of us, into the quiet breath of lives passing,
dissolving as refuse into the strong Chao Phraya.

Before I was small girl only, a simpleton
working in the wet fields and the far
       plantations of the Pha Mieng Hills:
long distance it is by bus and days taking me
on from sister and father, sick sometimes
       in Baen Pang Mai Daeng, with its four
pagodas and bewildering with its festivals
and laughing everyone in wet drench of clothes.

Why should I care what they do to me,
rut as a dog does or if afterwards they
       spend into me? I have been careful
and clean in the cleft part, water-making
in the streams only or in the standing
       thicknesses of the forests and what they
pay to me after is what I launder or buy being
fragrant again in my neat shoes and briefs.

I am Mae-Ying of the bright eyelids and of
adulterous attachments seeking the soft
       dust that is trafficking the evenings with
regret as the trees press into the back yard.
I am the compositor of bright lights and
        and denizen also of the night lands of rest.
Laughing and more rapacious than is the
mantis, I extend an unruffled impudence

5. that smokes on from behind me I
in my hot cauldron of pants, which
       are not scanty or voluminous but
intricately fashioned to the machinery
of my shaping. So I am always
       Mae-Ying of the village of four pagodas
who is known walking through Patpong
or Pratunam market and big hotels.

And if there is something unmitigatingly
sad in this going away saturated in
       what have been or sinned with O my Lord
Buddha I will pay you a golden offering
of six prayers if you find me a husband
       among rich farangs and truly I will
be faithful for a while if he take me to Milwaukee,
or Chicago, be a good wife pushing the trolley

round with children in the tree-lined and obedient
small streets anywhere I have seen in films but
       have come temporary visa on to London with
Glen who no is American but kind to me, cares
for mother also in small place where I do
       beds, shopping, cleaning, cooking. It is
bare in winter, true, and different and sometimes
I see flowers respectable look hard at me.

I ask to Glen he make me real wife when I
would be happy but he tell me next year, but
       no am sorry if night-time he call me his
sweetheart and hot stuff as big men they show me
but Glen he not like that I ask for money
       for the family who write say please forgive
us Mae-Ying but you no forget who in
Pha Mieng Hills need and still send love to you.

One whole year pass already in this country
that is clean but not forgiving with its
       its summer sun cold on green park-benches
where the ladies they ask me but I do not say
as Glen has told me but am as clouds passing
        indifferent and beautiful but not the same
now father he tell me can no come back
to Baen Pang Mai Daeng with its four pagodas.

10. No can now can sport in deep pool of river
with other women who are laughing and playing,
       as I did when young and was pretty, always
the prettiest. Why is the wind in the leaves
and the summer not listening but talking
      as though through me into somewhere else?
Breath in my body is as small things in house
on stilts by river but a long time back.

Because you were first and if then willful
we ask you that you do not forget us, ever
       Mae-Ying, but learn English, make money
for father and Sompong who sometime ask
you not Glen make angry but always be
       smiling and patient and do not cry,
but composed as he is our Lord Buddha:
who teach us respect and be always kind.

So Glen he must take me nighttime to classes
with no one to talk to but I will learn.
       Be modest and diligent and if
they do not like me I cannot mind. But
maybe something is special where I sitting or
       maybe I too have different smell. Boys
ask where you come from, what name mean and
if Mae-Ying you happy. I am always so.

Glen he my boyfriend I tell them and for
the friends I try mostly other girls, but
      not Goyko I like him he naughty but funny
and afterwards I sit and am only quiet.
Serb he tell me have brother, with garage,
      good business he say but not for me. He
ask me come pictures, I do not go, and
show me his photos: I only smile.

But Glen find me much talking and then
angry he take me to room, not let out
      but for cleaning, cooking and spend my penny.
My father he know this but tell me no leave him,
not now, Mae-Ying, that can never pay. I
      know that and cannot, for where I go?
Glen he have passport and keep in place
locked up and secret as is the heart.

15. But later in supermarket if Goyko there
I tell him you go, please you go away. But
     Goyko clever, he call me his pretty warm
sunshine his colour for him out on every day.
I tell him think Glen and his house-bound mother
      who try make trouble and no like me.
Mae-Ying you are beautiful and I only
want you and me stay as always friends.

You have laughter in your walking and all
the day looking as somewhere to go. How you
      fill out your clothes, and what is the wind
that lifts up my heart, my little Mae-Ying?
My name is a beckoning and he say only
      my fingers are sowing in him a softness,
that even his eyelids at night are smiling
to think of me sleeping wherever I am.

Please, you must hear me, listen Mae-Ying:
Important I find you and show you help.
       Mae-Ying of the four pagodas and peepshow
places ask what it is that Goyko want.
You, he tell me, you always from first when
       you were sitting so small and distant quiet
as cloud not moving and even men like
Drago my brother could not hurt your face.

Remember, Mae-Ying no good my English but
whatever you want I will do for you. Then
       you go I tell him that Glen no hurt me
or keep me in room with nowhere to go. Marya,
his sister, she help me and I no need money.
       What does that mean? Goyko, remember
that never can Mae-Ying be girlfriend though
maybe she like you, and stay friends with you.

But brother already take passport. Glen he
fight with and take my clothes. Why he do that?
       Drago he strong man and will tell police.
But why, I am good girl who want independence
and no cause trouble but live alone. No. Goyko
       always he want me, be fully belonging, to
your small ways, he tell me, your pout of voice:
you laughing I remember and look of mouth.

20. It ache where you touch me, stay burning
for days like a watermark etched on skin.
      Attentive each evening I would be happy
to soak up your body as a fragrant breath.
Why he say that? He funny this Goyko, maybe
      he truly be man for me? I go back house
but find now his mother she shout and Glen
he angry have bruises and no speak to me.

Maybe I tired to be the coloured longing, the
sweetness burning, a smoke without clothes?
       I am Mae-Ying the schemer, the great magician,
will swallow you up like a hooded snake. Why then
Goyko he not pound and pound me a hundred times?
       Like clouds I am silent and distant am sorry,
weighted my eyelids all night no sleep. Why
he not thankful and happy in body there?

Months pass and Spring come. Drago he watch me:
Does Mae-Ying want money and proper man?
       Money must have for father and Sompong,
maybe the once then but no tell Goyko
He say all right then and smile but then he hurt me.
       Afterwards nothing, no money, he only laugh.
Laugh at Mae-Ying who is stupid, so stupid.
She lose her position and no can smile.

Marya I try if she no tell Goyko, say
where is the money, the money I need?
      She tell me go work and be peasant again,
that Drago make meeting, Mae-Ying though sorry
but secret from Goyko and she nod her head.
      If that's want you want, love. It's cash and no
questions, ten quid for the transport, the
rest you can pay us when you're settled in.

Goyko he furious but Marya she tell him
Mae-Ying not honourable and she must go.
      What can I tell him who is only boy?
Mae-Ying too crying and now inward praying to
always Lord Buddha that in the heart
      the butterfly trembles but is never broken,
for all that she sit there with eyes still looking
always there inward and to the dark.

It sad how the day dies and also in evening
how the trees press to window their little palms
       without benedictions and can only be silent
as Mae-Ying is always as the passing clouds.
Father will die and Mae-Ying know Sompong
       can only stay living a little time. Why
you not tell me my own Lord Buddha that
she not be needful that Mae-Ying work?


part one     part two    part three    part four