By Peter Blair
It's Loy Krathong, the night lovers float lit candle-boats
on waves, wish for luck from water spirits.
We two couples walk to the river. Yingna curses Harry
in bar-girl Thai I can't follow. Siripan drops my hand,
runs ahead of us into the shadows between streetlights.
Your girlfriend doesn't want to hear that crap, Harry says.
I chase Siripan down the narrow street under high walls
topped with jagged glass, glinting green in the moonlight.
When I touch her shoulder, Siripan's crying:
She said she'll sleep with every man in Patpong.
Sweat seeps into my shirt like ignorance.
I'm always insulting her with the best intentions.
I sit on the curb. She hails a cab, then waves it off.
Yingna followed Harry home one night and stayed.
She's pregnant. He won't marry her. Siripan gazes
down the road where a blue neon light flickers.
We find them again by the Chao Phraya River.
The rainy season over, China winds blow into Bangkok.
At the water's edge, Siripan calms Yingna.
Their silhouettes sway against the dark waves:
Siripan's Western pants and Yingna's peasant sarong
together in this city of walls. My palms cradle
a bamboo boat strung with jasmine,
sheltering a small candle. We drift apart
into the privacy the night provides every few paces.
Her arm around Harry, Yingna shouts, Ours is still lit!
Some boats crowd together. Some spin
and float back to shore. Most flames die at ten yards.
Siripan and I squat on the muddy bank. My hissing match
whispers to the night air, and kisses the candle-wick
with fire. We push our boat into the current,
give the flame to the wind and waves.
Peter Blair is the author of "Farang" (Autumn House Press, 2010), "The Divine Salt" (Autumn House Press, 2003) and "Last Heat" (Word Works Press, 1999). He teaches at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.