Her name is Noukha

a village in northern Laos

HER NAME IS NOUKHA

Looking at me from outside into her own home

behind the wooden door her mother brought her through

-the day she was born

Wide with anticipation her eyes and the door stand still

Standing still is seconds or minutes in her world

her paperless world of sticks and stones,

mud pies and real pies that she will never get to see

She is curious like a child

Like any child her age but she is different

Ordinary in her eyes is washing her clothes at three

cooking at seven and starting a family at seventeen

The boiled scents of nostalgia flood the room

-her mother’s hand feeds her

She has learned much from the woman who brought her into this world

not enough from the man who barely lived until she was one

Her name is Noukha and she will paint beauty like her blind mother

Kindling kindness and strength of the sword and shield

-she wields on her back that are: duty and responsibility

She will see herself grow taller than the other trees

something her father will never get to see

something so beautiful that it stuns time

much like her curiosity dressed in her yellow crocs

just like when she stares at me. 

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The red fruit farmer

a village in northern Laos

THE RED FRUIT FARMER

He paves his own path on the dirt everyday.

doing the work that has been undone

The sun catches him in the act

scorching humid tendrils onto his back

His son angers at his absent father

but the ample evening awaits his returning.

The red fruit dangle on sprightful stalks 

Furious crescents hang from stems

ripe with authentic caliber

Like an exotic fervent lover

The red fruit wrinkle by sun not age

As he plucks them from their leafy brows

and a wicker basket on his back,

his broad breathing shoulders,

he holds them like he did once his son

The red fruit dry their waxy bodies

pinching temper into their pores

on hot tin roofs

I am the Shaman

a village in northern Laos

I AM THE SHAMAN

The red dirt I have built my house on

is the syrup my ancestors drank from the flowers

The door frame that holds my house up

is two trees bowing over one another

I am the village healer

and I have healed

fallen and sick souls

Today the red dirt reminds me

of the warpaint we use to paint our peacekeeper’s faces with

The two trees are bowing low to our feet

yet we can’t live without their merciless consent

It is this irony that separates us from nature

We reap the sap from the trees

and steal the skin from animals

to keep our diseased hearts warm 

Maybe things in the greater world is changing

Of which I am blind to

from the extinct life in my hut

Hometown Postcard

a village by Ullswater Lake, England

Hometown Postcard

Dear childhood friend,

I remember our house

with the grey bricks and peaked roof

The white windows served as a portal

to our lively imaginations;

our gardens, castles and deserted islands.

Our rosy cheeks would press

against the frosted glass

drawing cinnamon breaths

in and out 

When winter repainted our canvas castles,

you decided white wasn’t for you

so we went searching

hand in hand

to find the first sprig of spring

Your mother would watch us

with her knowing smile and short dark hair   

Her ceramic hands warm a mug of Ovaltine

Unknown to us was the day

that a patchwork quilt would knit

an ocean between us

I am still awaiting your goodbye,

A stranger

Reflections of a Fisherman

a little boat on Ullswater Lake, England

REFLECTIONS OF A FISHERMAN

This is not a sea shanty

that is gurgled with rum

and hollered on the tropical sea

This is a lake song

sung with a hint of whiskey.

__________________________

He lives everyday at the lake

as if it was the first time he met her. 

The fisherman cast his lonely net

wiping the cloudy depths

of his wrinkling forehead 

The quiet lifestyle suits his greying eyes

and shallow breaths 

His thoughts are far away from his rowdier company

who left the lake in search of exotic adventures

in bigger seas

“This lake will be your grave Finn!”they laugh

“Nothing ere’but mud and slag”

and they turned to rougher waters

to chase their dreams that are bigger fish and bustier women

But they forget what kept him here.

The merfolk

with their sweet chorus and marbled skin

turquoise seashells pin their auburn hair 

and they rock his boat asleep

and kiss his eyes awake 

But he has his own merlady at home.

His skin once spotted with age

His wavering hands once white at the knuckles

How he stands as a younger man

looking more like his son each day

Every time he forgets that

she kisses the crinkles on the corners of his eyes

saying his smiles give him his beauty.

He lives everyday at the lake

as if it was the first time he met her. 

  

Bicycle Cousins

on the road in Mirissa, Sri Lanka

set in 1988 

BICYCLE COUSINS

I am Islamic and he is Buddhist

arriving from indian sands in the 20th century

I was a white-capped, olive skinned outcast

The civil war ate the land whole;

ripping our hopeful flesh from our compassionate skeletons,

it harnessed the monsters Fear and Hatred within us

It then spat us back into an unrecognisable world

where we built walls of insecurities to secure our healing hearts.

Busy roads

corrupted minds

numbing my brain with tonic

He first appeared in a t-shirt and shorts

a rusting bicycle leant against him,

signalling their co-dependence

The white string around his wrist

-painted the label‘Buddhist’above his head

We crossed paths briefly with concrete eyes on the steady floor

Once we knew our places on the complicated map of religion

Our destinations were once so apart

This land has healed since then

We are hardly any different from each other

and together we fought Misunderstanding and found Harmony.

Now,thirty decades later the white-capped, olive-skinned boy

travels side by side with his white-string-worn cousin 

And they have yet to stop at their next destination.