This Body Mystery – Painting and poem by Chath pierSath
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.
Blame it on fate
His HIV exploding into AIDS.
His wife and four children immigrated.
He was alone,
a bag of clothes
fortunetellers saw only death in his future,
she lied to keep him hopeful.
Fought a guerrilla war
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 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.