Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, POLYGAMY, by KAREN SWENSON



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POLYGAMY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When an official goes upcountry
Last Line: His name green as unreaped fantasy.
Subject(s): Children - Illegitimate; Polygamy; Thailand; Birth - Out Of Wedlock; Bastards


"When an official goes up-country
they'll give him anything," she says, this woman
boned like a lark's wing whose feet barely reach
the pedals of the car she's weaving through
the fabric of Bangkok, "their house, their daughter."

She shifts with emphasis. "Particularly
their daughter. It," she pauses on the abstract
pronoun, "breeds a debt the family can
collect. She sang at the hotel in town."
At a light our flanks shudder among

the traffic herd. I see that youthful mistress
smoke-wreathed in rooms of men, sheath her in stoplight
red which cornering like a Ferrari
blinks GO as her soprano flutters mawkish
Thai-pop and rote-learned Beatles vowels.

"My husband, six years later, gave a party
for old employees. He said one would bring
a child. The guests left. The boy stayed." We edge
a gray matron Volvo through the poppy-and-apricot
soiree of three-wheeled tuk-tuks.

"I knew. He didn't have to tell." I ask,
"What did you say?" "I said to him, 'I thought you
were different.' But she was young, poor, had
to earn her living, while we'd plenty." A bus
bears down. She turns beneath its chromium

grimace into a first wife directing
murmurations of concubine children,
cross-legged obedience at lessons. "Still
I can't forgive. Our daughters are ashamed
and the boy, sixteen now, fails school."

I consider, in Bangkok's weave, what landowner,
fields redistributed by revolution,
does not, passing forfeit hectares in
the moonlight, hear the siren rice call
his name green as unreaped fantasy.





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