Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What does not die

What does not die is that Michael is dead.
His absence persists.
No matter how many nights I spend
sitting around a kitchen table
with friends
drinking Bordeaux;
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
at dawn
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
through mountains;
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
over jokes
in staccato
 joyously sing-song,
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
with friends
and huge blessing Buddhas
still he is gone.
 I’ve painted with village children a new senior center
 and photographed
countless cornices, villages,
markets with exotic fruits,
vegetables, and plastic-ware stalls with
 altars to emaciated gurus
 and always
  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 him
 despite the beauty and need of life and lives around me.

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