Siam Souvenir


Watercolor based on a handmade coaster brought home from a trip to Thailand.

The Tao of Doing Less


Many thanks to the California State Poetry Society for publishing the following poem in California Quarterly.

 The Tao of Doing Less

                                                            —Koh Tao, 2012

All night, breezes brush the trees

  palm fronds imitate the rain


When light appears, I rise from bed

  slip into the hammock on the stoop


Dogs already up and down the beach

  island mynas pecking fallen garden seeds


It’s enough for me, this warm humidity

  this balm to calm my aimless wandering


Each morning, we wake to reinvent ourselves

  each day attempts to best the day before


Though not today, not in this old hammock

  not with time before me like an open road


This morning brings its gift of slow simplicity

  nothing but nothing wrapped in nothing


I light a cigarette, take a sip of water

  scratch a bite that itches on my arm


I have come so far to do so little

  give me more, give me more, give me more

Long-Tail Taxis

Long-Tail Taxi

Many thanks to Marathon Literary Review for including the following poem in their June 2015 issue.

Long-Tail Taxis

                                           —Gulf of Thailand, 2012

Overcast dawn, low tide gray
..long-tail taxis bob awaiting rain
….waters to rise, to start their day

Tethered to trees, long rough ropes
..sitting still as Buddha grins
….quiet squirrels in coconut trees

One boat fat with jungle fruit
..Thai flag flapping, edges affray
….suns and moons of salty spray

I am a squirrel at a teakwood table
..curry and rice and coffee consumed
….waiting, too, for clouds to clear

That girthy garden statue squints
..always aware of this one moment
….low tide, high tide, water waist or ankle deep

Sunshine Bungalow


Many thanks to Panoplyzine, an online literary journal, for including the following poem in their Summer 2015 issue.

Sunshine Bungalow

                                                                  –Koa Tao, 2012

No coo-coo clock, no digital chime mechanical ring, no alarm
….nothing to nudge me from my dream

Only the sweep of garden leaves
..the blossoms’ breath, plumeria, weed
….my hammock on the balcony

Down the path, a match strikes a can
a knife chops chilis, oil hits a pan

Breakfast by Myself


Many thanks to the editors of Gyroscope, an online literary review, for including the following poem in their January 2016 issue:

Breakfast by Myself

                                                             —Pattaya, Thailand 2013

To start, I spark a cigarette

..remove my frames so I can’t see

….the stares of strangers passing by

……their kind, misguided sympathy


They must presume I must be sad

..sitting solo at a table set for two

….no hand to squeeze, no one to thank

……for sparing me their sorry stares


But I’m not blind:  I stare, too

..couples leaning back in wicker chairs

….some laconic, poking at porridge

……each alone devising their escape


Others gab, chatting up the rain

..jabber rolls like rice across the floor

….bored companions act amused

……grateful to be spared my sorry state


Yet I am not alone, not with paper

..not with more than fifty years of ink

….not with you a world or life away

……you now nodding—yes, yes, yes


Three Thailand Poems

Prairie Wolf Illustration

Much thanks to Prairie Wolf Press Review, an independent online literary journal, for publishing the following three poems in their Fall 2015 issue:

Return to Koh Tao

                                                      —after a decade away

Garden moths, their quick white wings

  the warning song of parakeets

    as flora feasts on memory


The native palms, the guava leaves

  bemoan the loss of morning light

    loss of sea breeze from the beach


Gone are the hibiscus blooms

  the one papaya hanging from a tree

    bungalows that once could breathe


All that’s left: a barking dog, a motorbike

  flip-flops on a gravel path

    mozzies singing gossip in my ear


How I wish the sky cracked clear

  spilling time across the roof

    my ten-year teakwood hut


Pineapple Curry

                                             —Koh Tao, 2013

 Something spicy, something sweet

  a battlefield across my tongue

    bee stings buzzing down my throat


Sting of thin-sliced chilis

  yellow greens with tiger stripes

    onion carrots, garden basil leaves


So simple plucking supper like a leaf

  six strings on a Burmese guitar

    rainy jungle rhythm under our control


Were I some jungle monkey

  I’d race right up that spike-bark tree

    have myself a taste of something sweet


Baggage Claim

                                             —August, 2012

Here at Bangkok’s bustling hub

  tourists lug their heavy gear

    all the world a witness


A family home from holiday

  wheeling cases, pushing carts

    loaded down with memories


Myself—I travel light as sand

  a daypack with a deck of cards

    a change of clothes, a pack of smokes


As for that other baggage

  that stuff we smuggle out of view

    that’s a crime we all commit


That fat white guy, his thin Thai wife

  their secrets packed behind their eyes

    their smiles silent, insincere


What horror does that black guy hide

  beneath his spiky, spray-paint do

    his passport stamped with contraband


My own smuggled souvenirs: a stolen kiss

  a dozen lies, a couple sticks of weed

    a lady with the muscles of a man


We board our flight, we take our seats

  our gracious grins reflected

    our fuselage a cylinder of sin


Yet Another Thailand Poem

images 1

Many thanks to Clementine, an on-line literary magazine, for publishing the following poem in their September 2015 issue.

Hand-Rolled Smokes

                                                     —for Ez

Not Drum, not other Euro brands

..I pop the cap of a Black Cat can

….exercise my old arthritic thumbs


Not your standard pack of pre-fab Zigs

..nothing manufactured overseas

….I purchase a pack of trimmed tree leaves


A local showed me how to twist a leaf

..keep it rolled without a line of glue

….keep it loose to let the burning breathe


Once between my lips, my two front teeth

..I lay back and puff the local reed

….let its incense burn beneath my nose


Small warm clouds of me float away as smoke

I become the island, come and take a toke


Two New Thailand Poems

Front Range Review

Many thanks to Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado, for publishing the following two poems in the Spring 2015 issue of Front Range Review:

Burmese Pantoum

                                         —Sunshine Bungalows, 2001

Each morning in my bungalow

  I rise—not to songs of garden birds

    but Burmese boys on the beach

      brooms in their hands, brushing the sand


Before I rise, I dream of Burmese birds

 sweeping last night’s fallen leaves

   brooms in their wings, brushing the sand

     evidence of last night’s hash?


After sweeping garden leaves

 after washing clothes, after gutting fish

   after a bowl of last night’s hash

     that Burmese plucks his old guitar


I listen after washing, bowl full of fish

 white talc smoothed across his face

   that Burmese plucks at his guitar

     sings an ocean melody


White talc paths swept smooth each dawn

 no birds outside my bungalow

   I hear the ocean’s melody

     a Burmese boy on the beach


Burmese Melody


The End of Unknown Pleasures

                                                                          —Koh Tao, 2013

 Something old, something known

     familiar, guaranteed


Mornings of sun on a half-moon beach

     blue sarong, old white skin gone brown


Taking the terrier out for a stroll

     same old path to the PO Box


Soaking in claw-foot candlelight

     joint in the old tin tray


People say, Try something new

      Go someplace you’ve never been


That might be fine were I still young

     time on my hands, no watch on my wrist


Now, mid-afternoon of my tan

     too aware that the sun must sleep


I swap my dreams for pebbles

     joys I might discover on the road


Nuggets of gold, manna from heaven

     women sunning topless on the strand


Now even these are old and known

     even these—and so I sit and breathe


Chalok Ban Kao


Many thanks to Steam Ticket, a literary journal published buy the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, for publishing the following poem in their Spring 2015 issue.

Chalok Ban Kao                                           

                                                —Koh Tao, Thailand 

Privacy—so public here in paradise

  things best left behind bamboo

    a market stall of mango nuts

That couple on their morning stroll

  their steps into the soupy sea

    a flirty splash or two or three


After a kiss, he’s stomping back to shore

  kicking the calm green buoyance

    girlfriend left to wonder what’s gone wrong


It’s bread and circus for the beach

  karaoke tourists, fools taking turns

    staging their small dramas for the bored


Even I and my coffee are seen

  woman alone at a teakwood table

    and I watch her watch me


Here comes her tan companion

  her leading man, her garden palm

    their bickering falls like sudden rain


My own companion’s abandoned me

  left at dawn for scuba school

    a Sunday swim with silent fish


So much I’d like to say to her

  to issue my objections and complaints

    popping fried eggs in hot, hot oil


Three Thailand Poems

Lime Hawk

Many thanks to Lime Hawk, an online quarterly literary journal, for publishing the following three poems in their Spring 2015 issue.

 The ABCs of Khao San Road

                                                                  —Bangkok, 2013

At night, under neon, parties appear

Backpacking tourists hip-hopping the globe

Cram the narrow road with manic music

Drumbeats, electric rock, beers in the air

Even young children run drunk on pleasure

(Families, too, are welcome here in Hell)

Guava, pineapple, papaya for sale

Have you ever tried a fried scorpion?

I settle for a Chang, a hand-rolled smoke

Just don’t sell me another souvenir

Knick-knacks, doodads, mass-produced in China

Leave me be in the midst of this madness

Me, mid-50s, too old to play the fool

No one needs a new tattoo on their face

Or three hooded wives like that bearded guy

People here either sell shit or buy shit

Quality, quantity, no real concern

Recently, a man was stabbed for laughing

Someone thought it rude; no one said a word

The killer kept drinking, dancing till dawn

Until the sun rose, demons undenied

Very few survive such wild indulgence

We wake after noon, vomit and forget

Exactly what we did the night before

Your eyes might roll, thinking I’m some priest

Zoos are fun, even home if you’re a beast


Last Night on Koh Tao

                                                             —Gulf of Thailand, 2013

Lost my beaded necklace east of Bangkok

wore it for a dozen years, then gone

an old friend disappeared


Several hundred miles south

fresh new beads around my neck

I lose my black bandana


Things come, things go

they enter through an unseen door

then exit through a window where a wall does not exist


Tomorrow, on the ferry home

aaI’ll say So long to this small stone

aaaafive times now in fifteen years


Each time, I’ve smuggled one small piece

for now, all I hold is this full moon

this breeze, these gentle lapping waves


Things come, things go

as I have done and must again

a firefly, a spark across the sky


 Chumphon Ferry

                                               —Gulf of Thailand, 2013

Koh Tao disappears—again

the island shrinks, small gray minnow

swallowed by a thirsty sea


Beside a woman on a back-deck bench

aableach-blonde hair buzzed like a boy

aaaaour tongues are incompatible


I shut my eyes, leave the past behind

the candlelight, the ceiling fan

dog asleep on my bungalow steps


I’m a stray, too, solo on the road

only my breath for company

so much more than I could ever need


Two New Poems


Many thanks to Helix, a literary journal published by Central Connecticut State University, for including the following two poems in their Fall 2014 issue.

On Buddha Bay

                                          –for Johanna

 Light off, ceiling fan awhirl

   late-night geckos echo warbled songs


Songs to lullaby our eyes

   to leave the day behind


The bone in your vegan curry

   the motorbike burn on my knee


Release these passport aches and pains

   bury them like turtle eggs in sand


Self-Portrait:  Ankles Down

                                                                  –Thailand, 2012

Consider the veins of my old feet

   big thick roots of a mangrove tree


Betrayers of age, craving warm baths

   each new step presses out a path


Here, at noon, on my veranda rail

   each tan toe, a fresh-clipped nail


“Days in Pattaya”


Many thanks to Segue, an online literary journal published by Miami University of Ohio for including the following poem in their Fall 2014 issue.

Days in Pattaya

                                          —Thailand, 2013

 On aching hot days, I pray for cool dusk

  band of orange across the western sky

    rising moon, planets, stars

      each an old acquaintance—silent, serene


Come sunset, as thirsty mozzies swarm

  as motorbikes buzz, I dream of dawn

    band of orange across the eastern sky

      smooth beach bare of night


Mornings, sizzling like a plate of eggs

  I pray again for dusk—all its disappointments

    my monkey mind cannot sit still, cannot

      find satisfaction in a cup of tea


Day by day, I plant no purpose here

  only pen and paper, only hope

    a garden might bloom, leaves full of fruit

     a summer flower bending toward the fall

It’s All Good


When we got back from Thailand, she said she couldn’t “see” me anymore — “no phone calls, no emails, no texts.”  She said she was setting me “free.”  During the five months we dated, she noted, I hadn’t written her a single poem.  That hurt, she said.  Up until our breakup, I hadn’t written any poems for more than a year.  Oddly, her disappointment inspired me.  Freedom always breathes an air of opportunity.

Yo Baby

                                —August 2014

 A tsunami arrived that day

  you spread your jam

    on my smooth sand


A hurricane blew

  a ukulele tune

    farther and farther, out to sea


 In your summer absence

  autumn winds arrived

    warm air oiled up the beach


And that icy-hot sun

  your sun, ever present

    finally set one dawn


Now all the birds fly free