toaism

The Tao of Doing Less

cal-quarterly

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

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When light appears, I rise from bed

  slip into the hammock on the stoop

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Dogs already up and down the beach

  island mynas pecking fallen garden seeds

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It’s enough for me, this warm humidity

  this balm to calm my aimless wandering

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Each morning, we wake to reinvent ourselves

  each day attempts to best the day before

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Though not today, not in this old hammock

  not with time before me like an open road

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This morning brings its gift of slow simplicity

  nothing but nothing wrapped in nothing

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I light a cigarette, take a sip of water

  scratch a bite that itches on my arm

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I have come so far to do so little

  give me more, give me more, give me more

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Hotel Brindisi

coke006

Many thanks to Route 7 Review for publishing the following poem in their May 2016 issue.

Hotel Brindisi

                                                                       –One Star, 1980

No fun befriending illness on the road

  scratchy sinus, itchy cough, aches and pains, the runs

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A fever comes, removes my clothes

  folds up all my maps and plans

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Dreams of travel travel back to home

  romance of discovery subsides

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I could die here—quiet, unseen, like those

  who make our beds, rinse our basins clean

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Tonight, I gargle with some stale Coca-Cola

  clutch another colon cramp, catch another fire

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The body always brings me back to now

  reminders always dripping off my brow

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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

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The native palms, the guava leaves

  bemoan the loss of morning light

    loss of sea breeze from the beach

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Gone are the hibiscus blooms

  the one papaya hanging from a tree

    bungalows that once could breathe

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

  flip-flops on a gravel path

    mozzies singing gossip in my ear

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How I wish the sky cracked clear

  spilling time across the roof

    my ten-year teakwood hut

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Pineapple Curry

                                             —Koh Tao, 2013

 Something spicy, something sweet

  a battlefield across my tongue

    bee stings buzzing down my throat

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Sting of thin-sliced chilis

  yellow greens with tiger stripes

    onion carrots, garden basil leaves

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So simple plucking supper like a leaf

  six strings on a Burmese guitar

    rainy jungle rhythm under our control

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Were I some jungle monkey

  I’d race right up that spike-bark tree

    have myself a taste of something sweet

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Baggage Claim

                                             —August, 2012

Here at Bangkok’s bustling hub

  tourists lug their heavy gear

    all the world a witness

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A family home from holiday

  wheeling cases, pushing carts

    loaded down with memories

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Myself—I travel light as sand

  a daypack with a deck of cards

    a change of clothes, a pack of smokes

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As for that other baggage

  that stuff we smuggle out of view

    that’s a crime we all commit

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That fat white guy, his thin Thai wife

  their secrets packed behind their eyes

    their smiles silent, insincere

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What horror does that black guy hide

  beneath his spiky, spray-paint do

    his passport stamped with contraband

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My own smuggled souvenirs: a stolen kiss

  a dozen lies, a couple sticks of weed

    a lady with the muscles of a man

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We board our flight, we take our seats

  our gracious grins reflected

    our fuselage a cylinder of sin

.

Chalok Ban Kao

steam-ticket-front-cover-2015-1

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

 p

After a kiss, he’s stomping back to shore

  kicking the calm green buoyance

    girlfriend left to wonder what’s gone wrong

p

It’s bread and circus for the beach

  karaoke tourists, fools taking turns

    staging their small dramas for the bored

p

Even I and my coffee are seen

  woman alone at a teakwood table

    and I watch her watch me

 p

Here comes her tan companion

  her leading man, her garden palm

    their bickering falls like sudden rain

 p

My own companion’s abandoned me

  left at dawn for scuba school

    a Sunday swim with silent fish

 p

So much I’d like to say to her

  to issue my objections and complaints

    popping fried eggs in hot, hot oil

 p

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

 p 

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

 p

Several hundred miles south

fresh new beads around my neck

I lose my black bandana

 p

Things come, things go

they enter through an unseen door

then exit through a window where a wall does not exist

p

Tomorrow, on the ferry home

aaI’ll say So long to this small stone

aaaafive times now in fifteen years

 p

Each time, I’ve smuggled one small piece

for now, all I hold is this full moon

this breeze, these gentle lapping waves

 p

Things come, things go

as I have done and must again

a firefly, a spark across the sky

p

 Chumphon Ferry

                                               —Gulf of Thailand, 2013

Koh Tao disappears—again

the island shrinks, small gray minnow

swallowed by a thirsty sea

 p

Beside a woman on a back-deck bench

aableach-blonde hair buzzed like a boy

aaaaour tongues are incompatible

 p

I shut my eyes, leave the past behind

the candlelight, the ceiling fan

dog asleep on my bungalow steps

 p

I’m a stray, too, solo on the road

only my breath for company

so much more than I could ever need

p