Thai Soup

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

Physical stimulus.


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

Experience of

Thai soup.


Thai Soup was published in Returning Soldiers Speak: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry by Soldiers and Veterans.