Pornpen Hantrakool


Caleb Schrock-Hurst

On Remembrance

In the twilight
and the waiting dark,
before sleep comes, and rest —
and in the dusty-eyed awakening
in the stillness of the dawn —
in these shimmer causeways
all forgotten dreams may dance,
some for seconds, some for minutes,
never long enough to matter much,
never short enough to be entirely forgotten.

And the buried doubts,
forgotten, sagging wants,
and shackled angry fears
awake, assail, and we must tremble
at the forceful things
that we have locked away.
But then true day arrives
or true night comes
all soft and warm,
and cures us of these things,
if only for a time.


Arms flapping in my jacket sleeves I
run and even more than usual the
eyes stare at my skin, my hair, my
sandals, “who is this người tây and why does he
run? Will there not be another bus?
What brings him here outside the city center
and where does he go so early in the day?”
I have no time to try to answer, to fumble for
words so strange to my homesick tongue, I
just smile towards the eyes and shake
my head. The bus driver waits
(he wouldn’t for his countryman), I
hop on board and I am greeted by more


A ragged-bodied mannequin stands at attention,
guardian of rubble, refuse, street.
No eyes, no hair, no clothing,
grime cakes her weary hands,
forever slightly upward, asking
“what kind of God takes shapeless matter,
makes crude echoes of itself
and leaves them for all time to rot
while right before created plastic eyes
the world parades forever slowly by?”
It likely once was beautiful,
it will not be again.

Those who don’t believe

in demons sure aren’t
looking very hard,
I see them everywhere and
they smile just like I do and
fix their hair carefully
with Goldsmith’s Locktight
(original formula(tm)) and
wish smoking didn’t cause cancer
for only selfish reasons.

We are our pasts, only,
and we work so hard
so hard to hide them,
but the demons always
find out, always,
and whatever you believe
doesn’t matter, cause evil
wins in the end of this
universe and this one is real.

We all are going somewhere,

us crowd of black haired waiters,
standing, sitting, floating in this mass of bodies.
Forward — stop. A few depart,
a few more join us. A few groans.

Beside me, a student — perhaps?
Perhaps 21, perhaps 28?
She covers her mouth,
as many fellow travelers do,
with a small elastic mask,
attempting to repel the exhaust
that she willingly pays to propel her now.
(As if lung cancer is not predestined
for all who call this city home.)

I am struck by not feeling trapped here.
I am surrounded, encircled, held,
by those my country may call my enemies,
or at least at one time did.
And yet no panic, fear, or cries
deep within my chest.

All I feel is —
besides sweat,
the eyes of 100 Vietnamese on my white skin,
the hip of the student,
and imagined thieves’ hands —
is joy.  

I do not fight for peace,

I work for it.
It pays me well
and bankrupts me,
soothes me and breaks me,
troubles me and comforts me.

This quite work is loud:
there is no silence on the march towards justice,
there are tears and fears and deaths beside
the cheers and joys and loves,
yet we pour them out together
so that others yet may live.

And if I fall while working,
please do not mourn my passing:
every body will be lost,
may my passing fertilize the ground.

This tastes of memories,

things shared and done and told together,
of salty tears and sweet-smooth nights
enfolded in the past.
This tastes of memories,
the brushing together of our lives,
the tang of departings,
the coffees, car rides, cares, and worries
carried on together.
This, it tastes of memories,
not always sweet
but always delicious.

Nothing ever dies, and nothing ever truly lives,
despite the human minds and hands that yearn to birth and kill.
Nothing ever changes, and nothing stays the same,
perilously on we plod, ever new and ever just the same.

I am alone.

All around me, strangers.
Is it
this crowded isolation?
There is music in it, muddled,
power in these strangers, felt as
an aching in my bones,
a burning shout of too much, too many
people, and yet I stand, watching
streams of unknown sorrows
wrapped in flesh and given eyes and minds
I’ll never see again.

Come the sore joints

of middle age, middle America,
I, a young man,
greet them with an arthritic fist bump.

My friend’s third ACL
should be named Clark Kent:
stoic, hidden, important...
history suggests it will find its kryptonite.

All things are good only until
one moment breaks it all.
Living is dealing with huge small tragedies,
one by one by one by one.

I can see her as she sees herself —

hair long and black and in a perfect bun,
tongue too sharp to tame completely,
blue and yellow áo dŕi perfectly formed.
This woman, and who’s to say she isn’t real,
lies reflected in the eyes as yet afire in their nests of wrinkled skin.
And though white hair now framer her amber face,
there is that smile, the words as fleet as birds
singing as they peck against the cage.
Teeth may be missing, but what are teeth
when the mind and legs still function as before?
This is the joy of age that is a language in itself,
the fullness of a summer twilight in our human garb.
Rejoice, and share the day’s successes,
and do not mourn the coming of the night.


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