Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GETTING A PURCHASE, by KAREN SWENSON

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

GETTING A PURCHASE, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Whoring? I guess I thought it was part
Last Line: I can send a small check from time to time.
Subject(s): Love; Prostitution; Thailand; Harlots; Whores; Brothels

Whoring? I guess I thought it was part
of the adventure, that I was smart to get
sex, interpreter, companion in one
package, but by increments of mornings
this brown face has grown dear upon my pillow.

Across the jittering spoons on the dining
car table, I watch her laugh at jokes in her
comic book as we ride north to trek the hills.
She won't like that, thinks walking's for the poor,
for farmers, and now she's a city lady

who taxis, paints her fingernails. Her father's
a farmer. He sold first her sister, then her,
to a man from Bangkok when the droughts came.
The two support ten who, in good years, gather
in the rice sheaves, but never enough to buy

back even one. I paid the bar a month's fee.
We went to Koh Samui. Scared, she walked
the beach but wouldn't go into the sea
above her knees unless I held her. We took
the shells she'd chosen in the sand and presents

from Bangkok to the farm. The family was
polite but formal like a nineteenth-century crew
lined up to meet the captain's wife, who brought
aboard bad luck. She's taught me Thailand, given
me a purchase on the culture, until

she and the country have become a chord
in memory, not separate notes. That body,
each breast sweet as brown domes of the raw sugar
sold in the market, has the softness of
soil clouding round the plow in paddy water.

Two weeks, then I go back to work, to college.
I bought her a diaphragm, urged the pill -
her sister's on her third abortion. Maybe
I can send a small check from time to time.

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