19 March, 2005



Thursday is a market
In That Penom
At sunrise
The long boats
Stream across the Mekong
From Laos

Packed to the gunnels
Low in the water
Steering intently
Past watching soldiers

Then heaving
Sacks of charcoal
Tamarind herbs
Frogs and chickens
Up the steep bank
Through permit checks
For trade
In the free world enclave

Lao in acrylic beanies
Traditional scarves
And sashes
Hardened feet in contact
With the earth

Among the stalls
Of pragmatic Thai
Plastic toys
From China
Global competition

One the diligent doctor
Recruits paying patients
To the local hospital
She consults and
Dispenses medicine
Of the modern world
With compassion
And integrity

The other
A canny businesswoman
Who also speaks
Good English
Used to work for USAF
Sakhom Nakhon

Now sells contraceptives
Anything you like
In blue red
Or yellow
No prescription
No degree
In pharmacology
All beyond expiry
Potent in unforeseen ways

Bad medicine
For primitive living
Bad medicine
Being poor
Bad medicine
In the wrong language
Of free trade

Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew
What tale shall save me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young"

Rudyard Kipling/ "A Dead Statesman"



Wolfgang's uniform
Hangs with solemn pride
In his wardrobe
In every brain cell
In every waking moment
And in his dreams
The sound of gunfire
The smell of cordite
The sight of crumpled
Bodies in the ditch
Terrified expressions
On their faces.

The uniform
Directs frequent inspection
Polishing of brass
The skull denoting
Just like plumber
Motor mechanic
Vermin exterminator
Balkan village sanitiser.

The uniform
Influences quantities
Of alcohol consumed
Frequency and duration
Of domestic discipline
Frau und Kinder
Celebration of
The F├╝hrer's birthday
The desolation
Of madness.

As all this
Is repeated
Ninety nine.

Footnote: This poem is dedicated to Gaby Luft.



The gorgeous darlings
Were perched
At their favourite spot
And striking attitudes
Glass of wine in hand
The food was divine
The place fabulous
The service amazing
The waiters cute
The sun was shining
The palm fronds fluttered
Obligingly in the wind
Till someone mentioned
Then they all started giggling
And ordered more drinks

New Farm 1999

(c) Willy Bach 1999

Small for Survival

Small for Survival

In the early morning light
Among the Bougainvilleas
Came the smallest bird
I've ever seen
Barely bigger
Than a butterfly
Black and azure blue
With an upturned tail
And rapid flight
As he sped among the thorns
So skilfully
Then perched
And sang
The sweetest song
Small by design
Small for survival

(c) Willy Bach 1991