Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ALIEN WOMEN; SONGKHLA, THAILAND, by KAREN SWENSON

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ALIEN WOMEN; SONGKHLA, THAILAND, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Sun-blind in the pharmacy's dim light
Last Line: Back into the sun's fistful of blades.
Subject(s): Intermarriage; Marriage; Shopping; Thailand; Weddings; Husbands; Wives

Sun-blind in the pharmacy's dim light,
I drift between the glass-topped counters that
display modern panaceas and
dried dosages of Chinese wisdom.

Over fish bones, stag horns, roots, I find
almost myself - red hair, myopic eyes,
but Irish and much younger. Her voice a mist
of brogue, she stands, extravagantly pregnant,
a baby's burp stain on her shoulder,

beside her Chinese mother-in-law who
plays twig-fingers on the register's keys.
In this hushed light she's an elder goddess,
Kuan Yin dispensing mercy, eyes dark glints
of pity over cheekbones smudged with age spots.

"Your second?" I ask the daughter-in-law. "Third."
She smiles. "Then life holds few surprises for you."
Considering my commonplace, she gravely
agrees. "That's true." Her mother-in-law's brittle
Chinese fingers count my change.

Both women brought their husbands the rich dowries
of their races' foreign beauty.
They've watched their children building castles
on these alien sands, escaping
from the netted pull of bloodlines.

Together in half-light each is a party
to the coalition of all mothers
without passports or frontiers. I walk
back into the sun's fistful of blades.

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