Symmetrically sliced mushrooms perform
Like synchronized swimmers
In a steamy pool
Of hazy-orange shimmer.
Swirling Cilantro stalks draw
Yin Yang symbols in a pool of perfect Zen,
That breathes life into conflicted spirits.
They fly up my nose; rush to the back of my brain.
I close my eyes and inhale
The smell of onion and lemongrass,
Galanga-Kha and fish sauce.
I see across the Pacific …
I see the steamy raunch of Walking Street.
Pattaya Beach. Vegas on crack.
How to market human trafficking:
“Good guys go to heaven; bad guys go to Pattaya”
I exhale the pungent sea air
Mingling with piss and prostitutes
On grimy, littered streets
Where babies grow up to be bar girls,
Like the ones we’re hunting tonight.
I’m full on Thai soup and ready
For the main course
Of alcohol and virgin girls
In pink babydoll dresses
And no panties. Mirrored tables
And low bar fines. Affordable virgins;
More brilliant marketing.
Keep the drinks coming and save the stories
About your family, hun—
How they sent you to the city
To make it big as an ornament
During this annual American exercise
Of diplomatic debauchery—
Economic stimulus by way of
Marines and sailors do their part
To fuck the American dream Into Thailand,
One sacrificial farm girl at a time.
The lucky girls attach like crabs
To the marrying types,
The Ugly Americans
Who want a repeat performance
Forever, and are willing to pay
All the way home.
(Like Pretty Woman but sadder.)
I smell the soup steaming up, and
It’s the leathery-skinned Euro troll,
His sloppy Hawaiian shirt and ladyboy pet.
The bar with the endless naked girls,
Dancing on glass ceilings,
Going down on each other
In an empty hot tub in the floor.
Sex as performance and
The pleasure-mongers barely notice.
Bar girls in their laps.
It’s the Tom Yum! Soup,
The one that leaves a burn when it bites you,
Like the place that it came from, where
The soul often insights you
About things you didn’t know
Were swirling around inside you,
Like that spicy bowl of Zen
That tastes more dark than light
And worries my western mind
With the thought that maybe I am too—
More dark than light—
If I love the hot and sour
Thai Soup was published in Returning Soldiers Speak: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry by Soldiers and Veterans.