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This Body Mystery – Painting and poem by Chath pierSath

Briefcase Owner

Combination lock

regrets and memories

Buried over the years.


Stored in pockets

pictures of his wife and children –

A resume of a border camp

a diary to forget.


He jotted down the date

of his interview with a US immigration officer.

Things he had to memorize to buy his way out of miseries.

He lied.

Blame it on fate

His HIV exploding into AIDS.

His wife and four children immigrated.


He was alone,

a briefcase,

a bag of clothes

fortunetellers saw only death in his future,

she lied to keep him hopeful.

Fought a guerrilla war

Frequented brothels.


Not even shrapnel

Could penetrate how

He lived. So what?


He fought for was disowned.

He had no rank.

He didn’t know how to steal from others.

He crossed into Thailand as a common refugee.

He became another soldier in the family

to spend money on prostitutes

He learned to speak flawless, poetic Thai

to lure women into his bed.


Then, husband and father,

and my third oldest brother,

are related more strongly

now in HIV.




That night he slept under guava trees

on a bamboo bed beneath a canopy of stars.

His older brother feared that he would infect his children

if he let him inside his thatched house.


He died with his eyes open

The virus spread its attack and pushed him with cold stiff feet.

It was silly to be monogamous.

There was no point

To quit either drinking or smoking.

That night he slept under guava trees.




The color of dark clay.

His face

His jaw bones knives,

His forehead skull

His head larger than his body.

His flesh a state of starvation


This Body Mystery


a shell, a borrowed ship, a vessel leaving.

I want this body to go

And take this virus with it.