Poetry: Thailand

Turquoise on fire.
Open your wings
dip down
wings extended,
I can see you now.
dip down
Glide to the top.
Seated on your perch,
you are nearly invisible to me.
Brownish, black,
like speckled pepper.
You blend
into the severed palm tree.
Your totem pole.
Your temple.
I watch and wait
for you to reveal
to me again.I glance away
only for one moment.
From my eye corners, a glimpse,
your wings are on fire again.
You have escaped me.
Eyes averted,
I almost missed your treasure
dip down
Turquoise on fire
Glide back to your totem pole,
your temple.

Kara Melissa
October 28, 2002


Poetry Project Prologue“Colors of Phuket”

The ideas created for the poems are based on a trip to Phuket Island, Thailand, October 2001. My vacation begins in Bangkok where I take a river taxi on the Khlong (river) to a bus that takes me to Phuket. During my visit, I stayed in a high rise hotel in the tourist area. The mornings were rainy, so I sat on my balcony and watched the world below unfold before me. These poems are a reflection of what I saw.


Yellow Flash v. Superman
Green Shower; Blue Bucket
Hot Pink Champion
Brown Down
Village Rainbow

Kara Melissa
October 13, 2002


Chao Pyra River
Khlong Taxi

Sometimes the hardest part
is getting comfortable

Step toward the long thin chilli pepper
floating through the Giant
Gliding over
the murky fluids of his soul

Trying to recreate the chilli sounds
with words only I can hear
m m m vroom m m m

Water spits at toes
Stepping up black on red
blue peeks through
Stepping over
nearly tangled in the web
of small dirtied twisted chilli ropes
that keep us from falling
slipping over the edge

Feet flat against red
bright yellow barrels greet me
Their caustic fluid of chilli life flows
to the chilli heart beneath the floor
chugga chugga chug
Guided toward them
my hands grasp the chilli lungs
rhythmic chugging spits grey breath
into my eyes

My bottom finds its place
on a toothpick
Finding balance feet locked
on the charred chilli hull
Eyes locked
on the world slabbed together
Brown puzzle pieces lines of age
Life fits together
mismatched crisscrossed
Jungle explodes
from makeshift roofs

My mind wanders
as eyes explore
Naked lives before me Before us
Passing through the Giant after another day of work
Nine to Five
I’m on my way to vacation
while lives are pieced together at the edge of a khlong

labor struggle exhaustion hunger
pain tears laughter smiles

Red yellow green blue hot pink brown

Colors of poverty
The colors of feeling alive

ThaiLand of Smiles

Kara Melissa
October 13, 2002

Yellow Flash v. Superman

Two young boys venture out
beneath the low gray rain cloud
its drops abundant but soft
Picking up clear plastic bags on their way,
the older one kicks off his slippers
as he fashions a new waterproof rain hat over his eyes.
The younger of the two skips behind,
adjusting his own found rain gear to his tiny head,
his yellow shirt a flash of sunshine
against the reddish-orange puddles growing around him.
The older boy, now barechested, ties his shirt
into a cape around his neck.
As he picks up the tiny soccer ball,
like a masked hero waiting to go into action,
they position themselves on opposite sides
of the makeshift soccer-volleyball square.
Rusty metal rods lay thickly on the sodden earth around them,
creating boundaries,
while a torn spider web of a net separates their territories.
Brothers in the rain.
The small puddles grow into each other,
isolating them on an island continent for their match.
The ball flits between them,
first with a kick,
Returned with a head butt,
over again.
Gray rain moves slowly above,
as they play, oblivious to the trickle.
lifts his arms, shakes his hips in a victory dance.
Yellow Flash
chases after the ball he couldn’t quite reach.
The ocean disappears
behind swaying palms
and tall but dilapidated buildings
In this square,
on this island continent,
Superman and Yellow Flash
and childhood,
all on their own.Kara Melissa
October 13, 2002

Green Shower;Blue Bucket

The rain has headed out to sea
and the pounding begins again
The hotel “villagers” go back to work
People walk through the maze of puddles
left in the shadows of the tall, unfinished buildings
reaching for the sky from their holes
Old women, hunched over, hobble
with wet laundry draped over their backs
Middle-aged men walk
slowly getting to their next pounding spot,
Some carry long wooden boards
2×4’s, 3×5’s
Young boys emerge from beneath tin ceilings
scamper across a thin, wooden bridge which
separates them from the river permeated with trash
belowA flash of bright, blue ocean catches my eyes
amidst all this everyday chaos a rooster cockles
the new dawn unrolls
A young boy, reminiscent of one of my third graders,
carries a blue bucket
Dressed in green shorts, shirtless,
he grasps a small boy to his chest, barely holding him up
The boy is naked, toddler size,
he cries as he slips in his brother’s arms
I cannot hear the wails above the pounding
yet I see his tears clearly
from my Princess Tower
in this Royal Palace Hotel
Farang St., Phuket

The boys head through the mud maze
the oldest stops, getting a more stable grip on his tiny angel
They pass the shallow, earth colored puddles
circling the metal rods, the minimal foundation for the unfinished constructions
reaching toward the sky,
Stopping at a small green oasis,
he seats his younger sibling on a makeshift dock
he then turns to a circle made of concrete in the ground
The blue bucket disappears into the abyss of discolored water
The boys’ arms shake
His body heaves as he pulls the bucket up now full of fresh rain water
He turns, dumping this bucket of ash colored rain over his little brother
Who welcomes this slick coolness over his bare body

The boy turns back
drops the blue bucket down and pulls it up again
This time he douses himself in the rain water

After he deems them both clean
he hoists his baby brother up onto his shoulders
where his tiny, bare legs lock beneath his chin
After knowing his brother is balanced there, he throws the blue bucket, attached to a small rope around his wrist,
over his left shoulder
They head back through the maze into the tiny metal village

Kara Melissa
October 28, 2002

Hot Pink Champion

I finally saw the girls today,
hiding behind the clothesline.
Hot pink shirts
faded in the sun.Clap. Clap. Clap.
I see their smiles.
I hear their song.
“Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All Dressed in Black Black Black.”
The rhythm of these words enters my mind,
reminiscent of my own childhood rhymes.

Soon they tire.
Standing. Clapping.
In their place.
They move,
gather outside the tin and wooden structure
they call home.

Sun beats down
through tears in the cloudy, rainy season morning.
The break from everyday chores continues.
Time for the thin, tattered, rope.

Its elastic stretches
from their weathered finger tips
to make way around their tiny ankles,
barely visible beneath their sarongs.

Stretching out 5 meters from each other,
the two oldest girls stand,
firm like anciently placed statues.
One, on an angled board,
finds comfort in the shade of the rusted tin overhang
above her.
Their footing created.
The game begins.

The girl in the hot pink sarong
embraces a baby between her legs.
Curious, the babe crawls from her big sister’s safekeeping,
closer to the outstretched elastic,
wishing she could jump too.

The tallest girl hides,
in the shade of a small bamboo tree
three feet away from the Thai jump rope game.

And the champion jumper,
her hot pink t-shirt glows in the shade.
She begins at one end,
her scrawny legs criss cross.
Jump. Over.

Back and Forth. Back and Forth.
Until she has moved close to her other sister,
just short of making it to the space
where her two sisters crouch.
Young and Old.

She stops.
Her younger sister lets the baby roam
on hands and knees.
She steps up to take her turn.
Jumping Over.

They do this:
taking turns
Holding the elastic.
Criss cross.
Jumping Over.
Twisting Around.
Watching the Baby.
Basking in the sun.
Hiding in the Shade.
Steps Alter.
Legs Sway.
Back and Forth.
Around and Over.

The path is the same.
Always Beginning,
Always Ending,
in one hot pink circle.
This is their cycle
where childhood games
create sunshine in darkness,

They continue Thai jump roping
in the small shade
of their rusted tin awning.

Kara Melissa
October 13, 2002

Brown Down

Walking up to the edge of the wall
first sight just a mirage
a quiet fishing village
boats resting side by side
a skip and a jump apart from one another
click click click click click
eyes move right to left
quickly take in the panoramic beautyone step forward
look down
brown, soiled clothing hops by
moving toward the water
squat pants down
around the ankles
she sees me
my picture curiosity
takes her soul into mine
her eyes are round like full moons
they circle me and walk away
back to the broken rocks makeshift steps
leading up into her fathers fishing boat
which teeter totters on the evening tide rolling in

Looking up and out
I see the fathers
riding in on the waves,
it’s been a long day fishing
Hu mak, gin loei
will there be fish to grill?
the sun reflects on the water creating a tone of orange and gold
pink moves in to surround the children
they have moved in closer to us
standing sitting
beneath our toes
my gaze looks down around
another girl climbs a rope attached to the top of the wall
the only way up,
or mere child’s play?
she is laughing
click click
two more memories
of their childhood captured on my film

the sun dips down behind the water
the shadow skeletons of the longtail fishing boats go into hiding
softly sleeping on the waves
we turn away
heading back to the truck
stomachs growling, headed for a fine Mediterranean Restaurant
hungry for Falafel, taking a break from khao phat pak,
my hand moves up to grasp the shiny silver handle
hers meet mine there
startled, I step forward
beginning to pull the latch toward me
I want to get in
she is speaking to me in Thai
she is hungry
I recognize these words
she wants money
I get into the truck
and ride

Fishing Village Rawai Beach Phuket

Thai Translations:
hu mak– very hungry
gin loei– let’s eat
khao phat– fried rice
pak– vegetables

Kara Melissa
October 13, 2002

Village Rainbow

The sun has dried up all the rain
but the puddles still remain
Cumulous clouds hang low, heading out to sea
It is going to be a clear, breezy, sunny day
Laundry Day
A young girl balances a large circular basket on her hip
from it, one at a time, she pulls colorful, damp strings of clothing
her short arms stretch up
barely reaching the makeshift clothes line
connected by one metal rod to the next
with a rotted 2×4 piece of wood connecting each rusted rod
She drapes a colorful, stained sarong over it
moving around the outer wall
she creates a rainbow of worn clothing
preparing to be bleached again by the scorching sun
draining vibrant color from the village
Her arms tire as she moves down the line
Reaching a fallen board, propped up by another
she peers into her basket,
only a few colors left
She is at the end of her rainbow
where she listlessly lies the final pieces
over the broken down wall pieces
Heave Ho
She lifts the basket to the height of her thin shoulders
Her body straightens as she prepares for the short
zig zag through the maze of puddles and mud
where she will probably find more damp clothing
waiting for her
ready to add to her Village RainbowKara Melissa
October 13, 2002

Cotton Candy Sunset

waves crash tumble
against the glistening shore
blue white yellow lavender
blue gray black silver
white foam caresses my toes
which find each other
amongst the orange sprinkles of sand
I breath in the air is moist with my thoughts
here I can lose myself and find myself
in the same moment
time no longer exists
only thoughts
only this moment this place
and I breath
the ocean is my lullaby
here I am safe from my nightmares
these waves
their sight their sound
can take me away
to exactly where I want to bepeace

Kara Melissa
October 28, 2002

Pygmy Loris

I. Butcher
Cut off their toes.
Then comes the head.
Don’t forget each tiny finger.
You don’t want the appendages wiggling
after you’ve severed the head.
The heart’s still beating.
thump ah bub bump ahh
Softer now, almost silent.
Ready for the showcase.
Did you know pygmy loris’ blood is invisible?
It’s not gooey or red and never stains.
The coat stays soft and brownish yellow.
How many pygmy loris’ would it take
to make a loris coat?
Wear that on fashion TV.
Winter 2003.
You can sever heads and appendages
quite quickly.
Maybe 5 an hour.
The real challenge here is not in dismembering them.
It’s in finding them.
Now that’s where the hunt comes in.

II. Hunter
You have to move
slo-w-lee qui-et-lee
through the thick, green jungle forests
of Vietnam.
If you step on a branch
crackle crink,
break one with your shoulder
crinkle pop snap,
these noises, a whisper in your ear,
scream to the senses of the tiny pygmy loris.
They move slower
than you ever could,
but they will disappear
into the treetops
before you reach them.
Fur balls like bees nests hiding behind the leaves
of tall elongated branches.
Nocturnal beings,
Halogen goodness
Flashing between the trees empty sockets.
Paralyzing their movements when awakened.
At night their eyes
are round like moons around Saturn.
Where you find one,
you are sure to find the lover.
Partners bound for life.
Pop. 2 in 1. Jackpot.
The catch and the kill are very particular.
You prefer the kill.
A catch is no guarantee.
They may die before you reach the market.
Falling out of your pockets, life spilling out.
But killing, ah, it’s over in seconds.
The prize worth more than a thousand minks.
Your family eats for weeks.

III. Activist
Market reeking of flesh.
Severed heads and limbs.
Hearts ripped out, creating empty souls.
I breathe this in as fuel for my fire.
Hidden camera,
a large broach around my neck.
Click click click
Bear paws on plates.
Snakes coiled preserved in a juice
curing ailments of the heart.
Gibbons in cages, chains around their necks.
Primate area, not for pets, for ills.
These body parts can cure any of the 5 senses
or a heart nearly still.
Don’t you know that body parts,
insides of animals,
can cure any human ailment?
My stomach lurches.
Swallow gulp Gulp
my insides back down to my stomach.
Where they reside until they pass through me.
Stopping in front of the latest showcase,
fur balls 1 2 3 4.
All in a row, little spaces in between.
A woman sits behind the counter,
Dark, short, choppy hair, plump.
She pops up, placing 1 more fur ball
on the cloudy glass shelf.
For sale. For cure. Unskinned.
1 step closer.
click click click
Secret snapshots.
What’s the name of this one?
Pygmy Loris.
Her hands disappear
below the glass shelf.
Up comes a tray.
Heads and appendages on display.
Fur balls bring us in.
Body parts cost extra.
Healing more.
Bright eyed moons, closed tight.
My stomach lurches again.
The stickiness of my insides
falls over the tray.
Tears fall down my cheeks.
Ones livelihood.
Ones cure.
Ones innocent death.

Kara Melissa
April 19, 2003
Revisited April 24, 2003

Equinimity Merging of all things
Giving life to the soul

Everyone is searching
For a light inside themselves
Lit by an embracing power
Arms open, warm, folding around

Don’t forget where you wanted to go
To find the quiet place
A happiness created by balance
Silence of voice but not of mind

Lose yourself in the ecstasy of beauty
And you are alive

Kara Melissa
end of March 2003
revisited April 19, 2003

Four-Hundred Baht Freedom

Shot down. Snatched up. On the ground. Whimpering squeals. Fear. Separation. Torment. Freedom.Mama. Where are you? I am so afraid. This monster is tugging me from the warmth of your arms. What is that red above on your head? Why are there tears trickling from the corner of your eyes? I’m screaming, but no sound is coming out. My nails are caught in your chest of warmth. I won’t let go. The monster keeps pulling me. It’s painful. My heart is breaking. I am afraid. Where are they taking me? Why aren’t you moving? Wake up! Don’t sleep anymore. I want you to go with me. Please mama. I am so afraid. I’m moving my body to wiggle back to you. But I’m stuck in the clenches of their arms. Giant monster fists. It’s getting lighter. The trees are farther away. Where are you mama? Why didn’t you wake up? How come you aren’t coming with me? I’m holding on tight. Like you always said. But I’m so afraid of the big monster. He doesn’t have softness to hold on to like you mama. His skin moves and maybe I’ll fall off. What if I fall off? I’m lost mama. I can’t see anymore. It’s so bright. The trees are all gone. I’m hiding inside the monster. We are moving so fast. Jostle. Jostle. Jostle. What is that machine? It’s opening up. Mama, I’m getting swallowed by another monster. It’s so shiny and white. I’m so afraid. I want to go to sleep. I’m so thirsty. Where are you mama? I can’t understand. The monsters are so loud. Growling. Going so fast. I’m going to hide. Maybe the smaller, flopping skinned monster can keep me safe. Will you be there when I wake up? I want to see you mama. Where are the monsters taking me? Maybe sleep will bring me back to you.

Gibbons are dying just to please you. Wildlife Animal Rescue, Phuket, Thailand.

Kara Melissa
May 2003

Palm Tree Waves

Sometimes I forget to see the palm trees and then I open my eyes
and they are all around me.
Bursting at their insides, supple life waiting to fall to the ground.
Creating a thud and an echo like a sleeping body rolling off the bed.
A romp in the sand.
The green arms wave
slowly in every direction,
whispering secrets to their twin.
Clapping with laughter into the sunsets
of pink, orange and purple. Palm trees
near crystal-clear, blue- turquoise,
shimmering water.
Fall asleep
in the shade
of a palm tree,
toes buried
in the sand,
at the end
of a newly
sun kissed
just having bathed in the salty blue sea. Their whispers lulling you into their secrets. Into your dreams.

May 14, 2003
Revisited May 22, 2003
Kara Melissa

ReflectionsThe old man in the window
stares at his reflection
of the world behind him
smoke rises from his breath
circling above his head
floating into the memory
of a yesterday

I walk half naked from the shower
dripping through my towel
teeth chattering from an artificial breeze
opening up the closet
staring at a puzzled reflection
in the mirror hanging
saying its good morning to me

The rainbows dance around the room
clicking slowly in circles
from their solar powered god
Now dressed I float over to my window
put my ear up to the mechanism
it turns slowly like the remnants
of last nights dream in my mind

Out of the corner of my eye
I see the trail of smoke
zig zagging it’s path to me
I see the old man, his back towards me
looking up into the dark window before him
What is it that he sees in a hole
which I see only the reflection of sunshine

Kara Melissa
July 27, 2003

Bengal TigressI saw a baby Bengal tiger during the Bangkok rain last night / and recalled how you once dreamt of wrestling with an ostrich / I was looking for you in my dream / over around up down / in the black melancholy of soured dusk / wind tousling my brain / as my hands reach forward to break my fall / face first onto the concrete / my feet still pedaling / the wheels spinning / I float back up / unscathed unharmed / physically / I am looking for you / around the next corner and the next / every turn / I find you missing / face imprinted only in my memory / laughter echoing in my ringing ears / I’d love to tell you about him / you’d tell me I was double OC / laugh / and ask for more details / plus secrets / I feel like a run over cat / or a baby Bengal tiger / rescued from a temple / only to be returned to hell / I’ll keep looking for you in my dreams / I don’t know where else to find you

Kara Melissa
in remembrance of adam

Ode to the Red Bus

Black smoke puffs into my face.
Pollution wiggles its way up my nostrils,
down into my already tight chest.
I try to breathe through my mouth.
Slow breaths, to avoid the burning smell.
Of flesh on the barbeque,
on nearly every street corner on Thonglor.
Thunder rolls and the Red Dragon
heads towards me.
His fire now only the smoke he exhales
from his blackened nostrils.
A wing man hangs off to the right,
waving his hands, collecting tickets.
Only 3 baht per passenger
for all those who dare to board.
Standing room only.
Hold on tight!
I move to the side of the street,
nearly stepping into the decaying klong.
In which only life exists
in forms of algae, mold and chemical concoctions,
from sewage and the like.
Dumped by workers living in a shack,
built for a transitory period.
Until the mansion shines on the corner
with a guard out front
to keep away workers
or other members of the lower class
from coming again.
No welcome sign here!
The Dragon chugs,
although shiny with new paint,
loosing breath with each meter.
His wing clips mine as he whizzes by,
still allowing me life.
Yet taking my heart for a moment.
And I have survived another greeting
with the Red Dragon.
Thus becomes my Ode to the Red Bus.

June 17, 2004
revisited October 20, 2004


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