Bangkok, Thailand


Approaching cautiously, the man in the white shirt

and blood-red tie makes any of a hundred

possible mistakes. His rational mind is almost

sure I won’t attack. Marooned here on the sun-

baked stones, I appear both docile and deceptive.

Perhaps I am.


He’s come to scrub my back with his long-handled brush.

I allow this as, for twenty-eight years, I’ve allowed

so many trespasses. This is for my own pleasure.

As if a thousand small birds treaded across my green-

knobbed back, these bristles lead me to the long half sleep

that’s been my life.


You could say it’s the nature of crocodiles

to live submerged, by which you mean drifting

through a world heavier and more ancient than air.

The slow heart sinks then wallows in a purgatory

of suspension. The incense of decay

clogs our nostrils.


But it’s in the mud I’ve grown to such longevity

that young girls string orchid garlands to wrap

my feet. The sun climbs into its white-hot zenith.

The voices of the crowd, full of nervous mammal

mannerisms, evaporate into a clear

pure song.


I take it as a hymn of praise, as if living

long were the same as living well. My eyes

close in slow dreams. The melody sways over us

as caressing as palm frond shadows.

If they asked I would tell them that every respite

comes with


its own penance. But I forgo my judgment.

They bring me a cake and a chicken and I am blessed

with appetite. I swallow them both.