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from the November 2016 issue

Untitled: #13 and #14

Phu Kradat gives voice to the people of rural Isan. 

Mon thru Fri, Sat and Sun, no holds barred
flea markets run from morning to morning
open up their thing
hustling bustles on Crown Property
peddling motley commodities cheap
consumer stuff
dried stuff
fresh stuff
live stuff
dead stuff
Wow, countless all whatevers to buy, sell, exchange!
come in at your convenience,
just shuffle on in
they shuffle on in

I hug my possibles bag
grope for change stuck in the bottom
grope for my own stuff
for enough to change out for
cheap goods scattered out wide as if
proud of their humanity

tho it’s too bad the possibles bag is empty
it’s all worthless. Priceless!


There’s none don’t want to go back home
Songkran okay New Year whenever day
day off day on just go on anyway
return the hope the plan of one and all
tangled in a diligence of drudgery
abiding foreign odors in a distant land
dawn to dusk and plunging into night to stand
that is, afford two feet to stand against the beating.
Lao lute melodies still sing in coursing blood
streams of poetry in flood just won’t run dry
tough robust youth flies crisp undimmed
Isaan honeysuckle scents float clear upon the wind.

There’s none truly want to leave afar O land of birth!
At birth the old home lodged in us its code:
still bound to fragrant earth, its greenery,
rice fields fling legs to grip the mountain wood
as far as can be seen you see it clean.
Restless whirls the world in dizzy busy turns
churns out kids grandkids great-grands great-greats and on
tho paddy chicken field and duck remain
none turned by time escape its change
but tangle up in loud melée
step hard and press feet freeze pluck fades
beginnings end then stands the heart alone
till all that’s left is chant for luck
complain then spit spit then wrap it up and toss it in
good good good there’s only good till overflow and sink
many sins extreme, look up and see . . . equal opportunity.

There’s none don’t want to be back home
no matter now or through long twists and turns
as screaming midnight thoughts plunge down to still
day on day off it shines and calls so clear
and none themselves desire to clog the roads
nor spilled pollutants cause another’s bitter misery
nor ever have aspired to hold back flooding tears
swollen sinews drenched in oozing sweat, to reach . . . whose home?

(in a whisper . . .
Please you of all should understand
be so good and wake from sleep
perhaps pluck out, make clear some things encrypted here)

© Phu Kradat. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2016 Peter Montalban. All rights reserved.

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