The (Un) Natural Life
Here the ospreys are mad
in flight, circling bodies
of water, like the bay
outside the hospital window.
The water is reticent, mirror
surface reflecting the billowing
storm that will be your coming.
For now, in this calm, we watch
an osprey dive, its plummet
a downward bullet. What it claws
it clings to, gliding above
city traffic to a nest
on an electric pole with waiting
I want to say you are born
to a world without
violence, to a calm
like the still seconds before
your first cry. To a land that yawns,
a green that sprawls
and undulates without end.
But this is a world of constant
hum and hunger, rotation
and collision—song sparrows
shields, cranes courting
in highway medians.
This earth is more yellow
than the jaundice
tinting your skin. Keep him in the sun,
the nurse says. Keep your son in light.
Light brings shadow,
and I can’t father
you from the hurt that seeps
through the barren cracks of this earth,
winding into the veins
of your heart. In this life
you must learn to harden
The Spectacle We Are
We hear them first, their slink along the underbrush
of palms and palmettos whose saw-teeth eat
jagged lines along our legs, like a cartographer's mark
of undefined trails. We hear them, their chittering voices
circling, conversations across sausages
crisping over a campfire. We hear them and turn
toward the direction of their talk and we say raccoons
and we ask if the cooler is closed and we laugh
the way we laugh at the silly things children do.
We must protect our nightly feast, we joke
and hoist sticks like medieval blades. We hear them—
a mock, a taunt, a tither. So we scatter
the way the crack of sound scatters sparrows into bursts
of flight. When we return, finding nothing, we hear them
and then we don't, and the night is heavy and fire plays
on our faces and then our O-mouths when we notice
the sausages gone. Raccoons, we say, though now with grit
in our voices. We retreat to our vinyl tents, our hunger
untamed, and we stew over the cunningness of creatures,
surrounding our circular site, who from shadowed corners
spy us the spectacle of the earth.
Sometimes you thought the smoke from the stacks were clouds, not the polluted air we were taking into our lungs. Sometimes it was hard to see where the smoke began and where it ended. Sometimes it was all you could see, everything invisible—the landfills of the city, the neighborhoods, the streetlights in the neighborhoods, the identical rows of houses with their shingled roofs, the branches that scratched the roofs, the one house with the open door that led into a living room and to a boy in a living room, stomach down, sketch pad in front of him, a rabbit emerging from a scribbled hole. Sometimes you couldn't see him, like his mother didn't see him, his mother who washed the dishes and listened to Buddhist sermons from a cassette player, her sighs like a depressed bellow; like his father didn’t see him, his father who practiced his putting stroke after long hours at the textile factory. Sometimes you couldn’t see any of them. Sometimes they couldn’t see each other, and it was because of a different type of smog that clogged all the senses, that made it hard to breathe, a slow strangling. Sometimes you thought the world would end or we would end the world, and the gray invading spaces would give way to a green so green it blinds, a green so green it devours all. Sometimes you think the end of us would solve every problem. Sometimes your problems follow you into the next life. Sometimes you sit with suffering, the smoke from the stacks creeping through the cracks of your life and suffocate.
Fainting at First Light
The residue of a dream grabs
me to the floor, this sharp plummet,
this uneasy drop that finds the heart
in the throat, beating and swallowing, body
stunned in whiplash haste.
It is not the pet-stained
carpet that receives me, but cushions of former
lovers whose arms thread into a quilt—
doming like the gym-class parachute I marveled
at years ago, that popped up like an inflatable
tit and then sank and sagged, a divot in the earth—
those lovers whose voices sing-song the prowess
(or lack thereof) of my touch, a cacophony of accolades
and complaints, of long moans and sighs
and disappointing head shakes.
What created the fog in my brain I do not know.
What crawls on the floor I do not care.
What voice beckons from the bed above I do not hear.
Only, in this blurred world, the sky pulses light.
The lips I’ve kissed.
The tongues I’ve tasted.
This life is not finished with me,
though the body slows, sags, feels
at times the world slanting its
gravitational tilt, spinning quicker
with each passing second, the brain
swirling and swaying, legs tumbling the course
of momentum, like the slow roll of a boulder
before its exodus off a cliff.
The biology of our bodies will fail. This, I’m afraid,
Today I find myself
on the floor, but
things in the world that still need.
Ira Sukrungruang is the author of the memoirs Southside Buddhist and Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy, the short story collection The Melting Season, and the poetry collection In Thailand It Is Night. His essay collection, Buddha’s Dog & other mediations, is forthcoming from University of Tampa Press in 2018. He is one of the founding editors of Sweet: A Literary Confection (sweetlit.com), and teaches in the MFA program at University of South Florida. For more information about him, please visit: www.buddhistboy.com