Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GUIDE, by KAREN SWENSON



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THE GUIDE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He leads us to our village destination
Last Line: The culture with the most things wins.
Subject(s): Culture Conflict; Thailand; Tourists


He leads us to our village destination
through the stubble of forests stolen by
lumber bandits, past bamboo conduits
spilling water down hills to women in
silver and coral necklaces who weave
on backstrap looms while men tend corn and poppies.
His terminus is twenty pipes a night
bought with our fees.

Rising in his beautiful balloon
of opium above his village,
he is transformed
into an East-West Don Juan pursued
by local maidens and Swedish backpackers;
into a Jungle Natty Bumppo, tamer of trumpeting
elephants long dead as these denuded hills,
and as he flatters us older women,
puts flowers in our hair, he leches
not for our pale wrinkles
but for flashlights, watches, jackknives.

On his morning pipe-dazed path
out of the home odor of woodsmoke,
through the melting shapes of mist
among the stumpy ghosts of jungle, he knows
the culture with the most things wins.





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