Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 120 in October, 2009.
It was a lane off Yaowarat Rd.
In Chinatown, years ago,
Too long ago for me to remember
Or want to remember –
I was a young man then,
Handsome but timid and unknowing,
And she was simply too splendid
To be there,
A lotus blossom amid the bamboo,
And no one knew why or anything about her.
She was silent,
Not just about her history,
The silence was in every part of her,
Her hair, her eyes, her skin,
And even in the way she spoke,
And in the way she touched you.
I did not even know where she was from –
She was too dark to be Vietnamese,
Too light to be Cambodian,
Too silent even to be Siamese.
The sadness of the world hung all over her,
Like those waiting in line
To see her, to hold her in their arms
In the hope that this sadness might fall away.
The war had not yet begun, again,
And when it did,
The time in between visits seemed like an eternity –
And it was not too long after
That she disappeared from the house,
From the Green Lantern.
I returned to that place with the dance floor,
The slow-moving fans and the stairs to paradise
Many times over, in the hope of her return,
For there were many things
I realized later I wanted to ask her
And to tell her. But she never returned.
Now where there is only silence –
Even in the raging crowds,
Here, on Canal St. – I see only her in it,
So many years later.
Dusit Thani, Bangkok, Thailand, July 30, 2009