Khao Lak Paradise Resort
She scrubs the courtyard with a ragged broom
as red ants climb and bite. In the morning,
every morning, there is rain.
Something tourists look at. Something to consume.
Bottles of amber gasoline
ranged on a roadside stand.
Blue plastic funnel swinging in the wind.
How to compass a country: my glasses
smeared with sweat.
Now our grief is put away—1
Green loops of jungle overtake red road.
Papaya trees and bo trees,
corrugated metal on the sand.
On the shoreline, mattresses,
bottles. Bookbags. Clumps of string
where the ocean, having eaten
recedes to chew its cud—
Later, we ride in trucks
past boats that ploughed ashore
Orange Devil and Blue Angel2
propellers sunk deep in the clay.
Everywhere, framed faces of the dead.
As if they have yet to discover.
As if a when existed,
as if a where.
The sun is a finger pushing through
the plastic sheet of sky.
Skin of the morning breaks
her body the color of teak
she scrubs the courtyard with a ragged broom
as a shrimp farmer checking his crop
holds a jar of water
to the light.
Through the jar
there are people running.
Through the jar, a wall of black sea.
Then there was not one bird sound. Not one dog.
I heard the water coming3, the sound of breaking glass—
Trees and roots were stuck across a door.
I said to myself, Patrice, you have to break your leg.
To become one with the water, not to fight.
I took a breath of water.
I began to kick and die.
At first it was very painful in my body
then it was very beautiful
sound and light
Mei dei,4 she says, could not
the child swept from her arms—
A yellow gecko ripples down the wall.
On the razor-wire fence5
their bodies sliced like soap—
As if to enumerate. As if to begin.
But the bag of salt I carry in my sack
for her body the color of teakwood,
for the gold and sodden color
of her name.
When we washed up, we were naked.
I hung by my foot from a tree.
Smell of fish and sewer, salt and mud.
A night sky filled with birds
op op grip grip of frogs.
In the hall, our sandals wet with sand,
green jungle and red earth.
The one white thread that binds us all
held in the hands of the monks.
And the tree had yellow flowers.
A leaf embossed with rain
scent of onion
crushed in the soiled air.
Months after, on the beach,
someone asked him for a cigarette.
When he turned there was no one there
but he felt a thump on his chest.
Then he spoke in English for an hour
—this is verified—then he said
in English, I want to go home.
but we paint the child’s room white
The ocean offers one blue palm
as if to show it’s empty
then spits up a bone—
How to compass a country. How else
to begin. Evil spirits bent the tree
As the child framed by muddy road
waves to our passing truck
recites from her father’s arms
hello bye bye6
from Undertow, by Anne Shaw, Persea Books 2008
1 Thai culture allows a mourning period of 100 days, after which the soul of the departed—and the lives of the living—must move on.
2 Two ships that ran aground during the tsunami. The ship later known as the Orange Devil took many lives, while Blue Angel came to a stop just next to a house, killing no one. Today the two boats remain where they landed, within a few kilometers of one another.
3 See the accounts of Khun Noot and Patrice Fayet in Tsunami Stories: Thailand, Compiled by Bill O’Leary (Image Asia).
4 In Thai, “[I] cannot.” There are hundreds of stories of people who attempted to hold onto small children during the wave, but the force of the water was too great. Many parents, able to cling to trees or other objects, watched as their children were swept out to sea.
5 A fence erected by the Thai mafia, in an attempt to steal land from the people of Nam Kem village. Half of the 200 villagers perished during the tsunami; the survivors continue to fight for their homes. See Wave of Destruction: One Thai Village and its Battle with the Tsunami by Erich Krauss (Vision Paperbacks, 2005).