Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FISHERMAN IN SONGKHLA, by KAREN SWENSON

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FISHERMAN IN SONGKHLA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: His mirror shines back with approval, god's
Last Line: Palms open in the gesture of forgiveness.
Subject(s): Fish & Fishing; Thailand

His mirror shines back with approval, God's
suspense-flick hero. This reborn Alaskan
in his red prophet's beard - the locals think he
may be a Ramayana demon - sweats
his teddy-bear belly between the market
stalls where dried fans of fish fins and drapes
of dragonfly-wing silks are on display.
He mutters Biblical quotes down the aisles, spells
against the customary pagan evils.

For a Nam vet named Jack he tends the gray
rustbucket anchored where the jellybean-colored
trawlers bob in the bay. Told Jack's ship
rescues the boat people, he awaits
his orders tracking little whores who skim
like flying fish from room to room in his
hotel and peppers them with buckshot from Paul
and Revelations while they wonder that
his innocence is as large as his bones.

His God, believing in contagion, proscribes
the houses of all idols. He avoids
the curving roofs of temples and the mansion
turned into a museum where, in shadows
of wide eaves, generations of the Buddha
are lined up in glass cubicles and teak
floors shine, polished by bare soles that lived
for centuries upon the other side
of his white coin of history.

By street-lace of evening lights he eats
his shrimp in catsup, sleeps through softly closing
doors of whores to dream he's fishing, hooking
them from their pagan pool. The women gleaming
in their sarongs, the men dark-scaled, pile at
his feet, an offering to God. The Buddhas
in the museum wear the moon's pale garment,
dream of flowers and incense as they hold their
palms open in the gesture of forgiveness.

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