What does not die is that Michael is dead.
His absence persists.
No matter how many nights I spend
sitting around a kitchen table
No matter that I’ve been to Northern Thailand and back
zipping stop-and-go through the streets of Bangkok
to magnificent palaces with their reclining, Lotus, standing and fasting Buddhas,
Meeting travelers from villages and cities worldwide—fascinating people
with wondrous and tragic lives;
No matter that I’ve meandered through the wats of Chiang Mai and
jumped in with a group of some twenty Chinese residents
to practice Tai Chi
before the old wall,
He is gone.
Tinging temple bells, incense and chanting,
rice festivals and temple-gate dedication ceremonies,
squatting over a hole in the outhouse floor
in a village three-and-a-half hours
by single-lane-switchback, dirt road
pausing to shoo Brahman cattle off the road,
carefully honking around each bend as
our truckload of children and adults
gathered high in the back
like a bouquet of black-haired flowers;
in the truck,
pop-Thai crooners on the radio and laughing
Michael is gone.
I’ve hiked through the countryside
amongst orchids and chickens,
gazed over vistas of terraced coffee growing
between mango and lychee groves,
lingered by a babbling stream
overlooked by huge elephant-ear leaves
reaching skyward and sideways,
Cowbells softly sounding,
he is still gone.
I’ve hiked to mountaintop temples,
climbing thousands of stairs,
"Sawadee-d" monks galore,
Peeped into bat caves and shared panoramas
and huge blessing Buddhas
still he is gone.
I’ve painted with village children a new senior center
countless cornices, villages,
markets with exotic fruits,
vegetables, and plastic-ware stalls with
altars to emaciated gurus
a photo of the king
and sometimes the queen,
seen maggots and other juicy caterpillars for sale
for human consumption,
eaten fried bananas and black rice with coconut milk
from a hollow piece of bamboo,
but the taste of his absence never leaves.
And I am hungry to rejoin himdespite the beauty and need of life and lives around me.