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"


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