The silly old man with the young thai girl

in the texas lone star saloon

 

He must be twice her age at least

With mottled, wrinkled skin

His hair is dyed a bottle-black

His face is wintry thin.

 

Blue veins snake down his bony hands

Like roots of ancient trees

He wears a pair of checkered shorts

Above his scrawny knees.

 

The girl he’s with is beautiful

Her shoulder-length black hair

Surrounds and frames her dark brown face

Her shoulders soft and bare.

 

He drinks his Mekhong whiskey down

And orders yet again

The girl he’s with just sighs and sneaks

a smile at other men.

 

They sit in silence, the silly old man

And the girl who stole his heart

Someone should whisper in his ear

“Too many years apart!”

 

Someone should whisper in his ear

“Your girl is bored to death!

Your eyelids droop, your shoulders stoop

There’s whiskey on your breath!”

 

Someone should whisper in his ear

That if he didn’t pay

He might just find his lady love

Would soon be on her way.

 

He wallows in her loving gaze

So puppy-dog serene

Serenity for her of course

His ATM machine.

 

But he might whisper in our ears

“Well, don’t you think I know?

I made my choice and so will you

With fewer years to go.”

 

I’m not sure what to make of him

There is no guiding rule

I wonder if he could be both

A wise man and a fool.

 

He turns his head to pay the bill

And suddenly I see

It’s a mirror on the wall

The silly old man is me.

 

**************************************

 

The Kid from Khao San Road

 

There was a mighty buffalo

Its head is stuffed and hung

Upon the wall of the Lone Staar bar

Where country songs are sung.

 

And Country singers wail their woes

Their pictures on the walls

A lot of friendly people there

A lot of friendly brawls.

 

And men who fought in many wars

Or leastwise might have done

And men who work the Saudi rigs

Beneath the Saudi sun.

 

With Cowboy Jon and Mekhong Kurt

The girls know very well

How female charms and soft, smooth arms

Can make them ring the bell.

 

And Son-of-loser Paul sits with

The girl he thinks is his

He plans that they’ll be married soon

Not knowing that she is.

 

The night he came, the moon was full

It cast a silver glow

Upon his back and made it seem

As if he’d walked in snow.

 

Five-minute Jack was in a booth

regaling Death Wish Don

about the girl from Patpong Road

he’d spent his pension on.

 

The kid with shaggy hair sat down

Still dusty from the road

His stone-washed jeans were tight and worn

His sandals open-toed.

 

He clearly was a tight-assed waif

A smug, conceited leech

Ex-Peace Corps brat, healthnazi type

The kind who loved The Beach.

 

He knows the culture and cuisine

It showed with every smirk

Each condescending smile revealed

A condescending jerk.

 

He sat his backpack by the bar

and ordered up a Sprite

Then counted out some coins and said

His manner impolite:

 

“I’m only here to look around

This place just makes me laugh

Ex-CIA and ex-marines

Ex-Vietnam riffraff.”

 

The mean and massive buffalo

In sinister repose

Eyes huge and black looked down as if

remembering its foes.

 

The Kid leaned forward on the bar

A sneer upon his lips

He finished counting out his coins

He wasn’t leaving tips.

 

He used his comb to preen a bit

A real conceited fool

While shadows of two curved black horns

Fell full upon his stool.

 

He drank his sprite and belched a lot

As if he’d had a beer

And as the mamasan passed by

He screamed into her ear.

 

His voice so loud I spilled my drink

And Noy fell off my lap

And with wild eyes he shouted out:

HEY! LIKE, COULD SOMEBODY CHANGE THE MUSIC?

WHO NEEDS THIS COWBOY CRAP!

 

The seconds passed – the music died

And not a sound was heard

Each second an eternity

Yet no one said a word.

 

And then my glass began to shake

And all the bottles fell

A savage snorting sounded like

The very hound of hell.

 

And as the thunder suddenly

Became a fearsome roar

The kid grew pale and ashen-faced

and started for the door.

 

And in the moonlight I could see

Curved shadows on the floor

And as the shadows merged with his

The Kid I saw no more.

 

There was a mighty buffalo

Its head is stuffed and hung

Upon the wall of the Lone Staar bar

Where country songs are sung.

 

And legend says on moonlit nights

Strange sounds are heard inside

That stuffed and mighty buffalo

As if somebody died.

 

And when I doze I seem to hear

From deep within my nap

A voice inside the buffalo

HEY! LIKE, COULD SOMEBODY CHANGE THE MUSIC?

WHO NEEDS THIS COWBOY CRAP!

**************************************

 

The Farmer’s Dark-eyed Daughter

 

The wind sweeps through the ricefields, a sea of emerald green,

Lek, the farmer’s dark-eyed daughter, has barely turned eighteen,

She can plant her rai of rice a day, as well as any man,

And she gives to the neighbor’s son her heart -

To him she gives her heart -

As much as a woman can.

 

“Girl is rice, boy is paddy,” a song all lovers know,

They ride across the muddy fields on aging buffalo,

The flute he carves he plays for her, and beneath the setting sun,

They pledge forever their hearts are one -

their beating hearts are one -

Until their lives are done.

 

The snowy clouds drift dreamily, across a deep blue sky,

The lovers meet by lantern light, and vow that they would die,

Rather be reborn again, and start their lives anew,

Than lose the love of the other

For they can never love another

Beneath the canopy of heaven - this sky of indigo blue.

 

The rainstorms flood the ricefields, and after comes the drought,

The farmers’ prayers unheeded, no matter how devout,

Their hopes and dreams are ended when their buffalo are sold,

Lek shares with her neighbors all her rice –

And as her final sacrifice –

She sells her ring of gold.

 

Their tear-filled eyes are swollen, the pain of parting deep,

The drought has drained their savings, their plans will have to keep,

They will leave for distant regions, and work at what they must,

But secure in words unspoken, secure in oaths unbroken -

Oaths never to be broken –

And in each other’s trust.

 

The factories are filthy, and offer little pay,

But as the boss approaches, Lek knows what he will say,

She will bear this shame forever, but she knows what she must do,

And after she washes her body clean -

She buys a gown of emerald green –

A gown of silken, emerald green –

And a purse of indigo blue.

 

Her beauty makes her famous, the toast of every bar,

Lek, the farmer’s dark-eyed daughter, is Bangkok’s newest star,

She can have her choice of rich or poor, can capture any man,

But she keeps for the neighbor’s son her heart –

For him she keeps her heart –

As much as a bargirl can.

 

Each day seemed like a lifetime, but now she has returned,

Their wedding will be paid for, with everything she earned,

They can never love another, that much was understood,

For she gave to the neighbor’s son her heart -

To him she gave her heart -

As much as a woman could.

 

The moon is full and shining, Lek hurries to her fate,

This night will last forever, and she must not be late,

The gown she wears is stunning, a silken emerald green

She leaves to join the banquet –

At last the wedding banquet -

As regal as a queen.

 

The banquet room though crowded, there is no sound at all,

Lek, the farmer’s dark-eyed daughter, strides out across the hall,

She stops before the neighbor’s son, and the woman at his side,

The man for whom she kept her heart -

Only for him she kept her heart -

Has chosen another bride.

 

She sees his tears spill over, as she looks into his eyes,

And she feels within her heart, a love that never dies,

She will love this man forever, but she knows what she must do,

She can only stare at the neighbor’s son -

while from her purse she draws a gun -

Her purse of indigo blue.

 

The shot sounds through the village, her dress is splashed with red,

Lek, the farmer’s dark-eyed daughter, has shot her lover dead,

She presses the gun against her breast, and just as it began,

she gives to the neighbor’s son her heart -

To him she gives her heart -

As much as a woman can.

 

The wind swept through the ricefields, a sea of emerald green,

Lek, the farmer’s dark-eyed daughter, had barely turned eighteen,

She could plant her rai of rice a day, as well as any man,

And she gave to the neighbor’s son her heart -

To him she gave her heart -

As much as a woman can.

 

**************************************

 

No, I am not in Love with the Maid so put the Knife down now

 

No, I am not in love with the maid

so put the knife down now

and take a deep breath

and remember what you said about how

if Thais raise their voice

they lose face.

 

I thought even when Thais disagree

they were supposed to be

non-confrontational

a gentle people

with charm and grace.

 

And I have to say

I would regard any attempt

on your part

to stab me

with that blade

just because I said the maid

deserves a raise in pay

as very confrontational.

So put the knife down now.

 

I don’t care if you did buy it with your own money

Even by Thai logic that doesn’t give you the right to stab me

or to feed Mr. Happy to the ducks.

That’s a crime.

And I have to say

your attitude really sucks

Big Time.

So put the knife down now.

 

I don’t care what your mother told you about foreign men

or that your sister’s marriage to the German guy didn’t work out.

As far as I can see

that has nothing to do with me

and there’s no need to shout

So put the knife down now.

 

You know how you get

when it’s that time of month -

Remember last month in the bar?

And remember last year in the car?

 

I don’t care who was in the wrong

don’t ever call a policeman

those names again

at least not when

I’m with you.

 

Yes, I swear to Buddha

I am not in love with the maid

So put the knife down

put the knife down

put the knife down

now.

 

That’s the girl

just put it down.

Good girl.

I’m glad you’re sorry

just don’t do it again.

 

So if you’re sorry

why are you laughing?

 

**************************************

 

My True Love

 

She said she was a virgin

She’d never had a man

Yet on her back the tattoo read

“All my love to Stan.”

 

She said she was a waitress

Her life was dull and tame

Yet when we went to Patpong bars

The girls all knew her name.

 

She said she was a student

I saw enrollment slips

I also saw her closet full

Of handcuffs, straps and whips.

 

She said she was a good girl

And that could well be true

So maybe I just caught the clap

From someone’s filthy loo.

 

She said that when we married

Her love would never fail

But first she’d need ten thousand baht

Her husband was in jail.

 

She said the bride price must be paid

But it was just for show

And I would get it back as soon

As Udorn had some snow.

 

She said our house was in her name

But she would let me pay

But – in keeping with Thai custom

I wouldn’t get to stay.

 

She asked to share my bank account

I thought it’d be okay

And now I live in poverty

She lives in Saint-Tropez.

**************************************

 

Noy Of The Horny Toad

 

 

By the open door they gathered, bikini-clad and full of charm,

But the tourists and the locals merely waved;

Yet Good Pork Betty (the mama-san) had sounded the alarm,

The Horny Toad was deep in debt and must be saved.

 

They stood in sexy poses, go-go dancers with their claim,

Of fast-paced music, pretty girls, and cheapest beer;

But too many bars had opened and despite their well-earned fame,

Already many bars had closed that year.

 

Dang had winked her long eyelashes, and Nit had tried her Chiang Mai smile,

And Oy had draped her hair with shiny stars;

But neither Ott's seductive figure nor Good Pork Betty's guile,

Could stop the crowds from seeking other bars.

 

So the dancers here were charming, so were the girls in all the rest,

And the patrons had their choice of where to play;

Mississippi Queen, Safari, Superstar - All argued which was best,

As a connoisseur of wine might judge bouquet.

 

Lek turned up the music, and Att hung up a flashing light,

They tried all tricks they knew to make it pay;

But despite their valiant efforts, they knew they'd lost the fight,

When even Bad Debt Billie stayed away.

 

Good Pork Betty knew the end had come and fought to hide her tears,

But as she spoke her throat was full and tight;

"The Horny Toad lose money now and too far in arrears,

I no can help it - tonight is our last night."

 

They'd come to the Horny Toad for work, but they'd met each night as friends,

Dang spoke for all and said, "We no can earn our keep."

"How I feed my baby now?" she asked, (as on many a dancer a child depends),

And Dang and Nit and Dao began to weep.

 

An old woman, nearly senile, tried to comfort each in turn,

She'd sometimes cook and when she could she'd clean;

The girls all loved her dearly, and from whatever they might earn,

There was always something saved for the Betel Nut Queen.

 

The Betel Nut Queen was old now, and her hair was snowy white,

Yet in her youth she danced in every show;

Her red lips were stained with betel-nut juice, and she'd nearly lost her sight,

And the girls all knew she had no place to go.

 

They had long since left the ricefields, and go-go dancing was all they knew,

And they wept for the aging Betel Nut Queen;

But in the room an eerie silence became more eerie as it grew,

And they were stilled by a presence more felt than seen.

 

No one spoke yet all heads turned, near the bar a figure sat,

On her red-and-green bikini was number forty-four;

Her long black hair was stunning and her chest was far from flat,

But no dancer had ever seen her there before.

 

Her shoes were of speckled silver, her ears were pierced with gold,

And her full lips were moist and slightly parted;

In her beauty she rivalled Sita, Rama's beloved in legend told,

And in her mood seemed just as heavy-hearted.

 

Above high cheekbones, her dark brown eyes explored the bar,

As if remembering how it was so long ago;

Beneath her smooth brown throat, her only flaw - a tiny scar,

But if it gave her pain, it did not show.

 

And on her neck a golden chain, perhaps a gift from a favorite lover,

It twisted to form three letters clear and bright;

They read "Noy," a common nickname, but as all would soon discover,

Nothing common was to happen there that night.

 

With just the slightest smile, the leggy dancer shook her head,

And from the beer-stained barstool she rose;

And in the quiet room, with firm resolve, she clearly said,

"No way - this bar - go'an close."

 

Then she climbed on to the counter and up upon the stage,

And without another word began to dance;

No one knew her occupation and no one knew her age,

But they knew the Horny Toad might have a chance.

 

This was not a normal dancer, who might smile and move about,

For her movements cast a spell on all in sight;

Supernal or infernal, she was the best, without a doubt,

And it was clear this was to be a special night.

 

Wide-eyed tourists and tipsy locals walked by debating where to go,

Then stopped so fast it seemed they must have died;

And in minutes on all of Patpong, there wasn't one who did not know,

And the Horny Toad had not an empty seat inside.

 

None had seen a girl so sexy, nor a dancer with such allure,

She seemed a blur of form and wondrous flash;

Good Pork Betty watched the crowd, and knew they'd saved the bar for sure,

When even Bad Debt Billie paid with cash.

 

Whiskey, beer - when all was sold, they'd order milk or wine instead,

All were captives of the dancer's magic sway;

Even shirts were good as gold - especially those that read,

"I love you, darling, more than I can pay."

 

Men left their haunts for the Horny Toad, girls ignored their fortune-tellers,

It was said that touts abandoned clientele;

There were gum- and garland-vendors and men fought with flower-sellers,

For the right to go with Noy to a hotel.

 

 

There was noise and smoke and flashing lights, and many photographs were taken,

But already the Betel Nut Queen had begun to doubt;

She felt Noy was more than just a dancer, and she knew she was not mistaken,

When any photograph of Noy would not come out.

 

And then at last the bar was closed, and the Betel Nut Queen had locked the door,

But she saw that it was just as she had feared;

For though the bar was saved - there was no number forty-four,

Noy of the Horny Toad had disappeared.

 

Lek said, "For sure, she Chiang Mai girl," Dang said, "No, I think she from Rayong."

Good Pork Betty thought Noy was from Phuket;

Nit said, "I think you no know nothing, I think you all are wrong,

I sure she must be Bangkok girl, you bet!"

 

And all the girls debated how the dancer came and went,

And where she might have learned her sexy dance;

But the Beetle Nut Queen sat still - perhaps to ponder what it meant,

It was as if she'd fallen deep into a trance.

 

Then suddenly her face grew pale, and her lips let out a moan

So fearful that some ran frightened to the door;

Her hands began to tremble and her voice was not her own,

As she said, "That girl I saw here long time before!"

 

She rose slowly from the table and walked just behind the stairs,

And began to empty boxes piled beneath the Buddhist shrine;

Her thin brown hands moved quickly, and her lips mouthed many prayers,

And if she saw the girls strange looks she gave no sign.

 

And the contents were quickly scattered, a collection of many years,

Bar bills unpaid, love letters unread by girls grown old;

Then her shaking hand touched bottom - and her touch confirmed her fears,

And the Betel Nut Queen felt her soul grow cold.

 

By their trembling friend they gathered, bikini-clad and frightened to the core,

The faded photograph they'd never seen;

But a most familiar dancer - her number forty-four,

Wore proudly her bikini - red and green.

 

The Betel Nut Queen spoke slowly, though her breath was fast and deep,

As if what happened long ago now caused great pain;

Her eyes were clouded over and she spoke as though from sleep,

Of how Noy's charm had driven men insane.

 

She'd been captured by the camera as she leapt upon the stage,

And yet again she gave her knowing smile;

That smile had stolen the hearts of men - regardless of their age,

And no dancer could hope to match her style.

 

But if her charm beguiled all men - the rage began to build,

In the breasts of all the girls who'd lost their men;

And their anger grew at each defeat, until their very souls were filled,

With a vow that Noy would never dance again.

 

Then came the night when the bar was full, with Noy surrounded like a queen,

Men sought her love but each was quickly spurned;

But just before her turn to dance, a pretty dancer grew drunk and mean,

And in her eyes a consuming hatred burned.

 

There was confusion near the counter when the dancer rushed at Noy,

Her one thought to tear her antagonist apart;

But though Noy saw the dagger, she seemed to glow with a secret joy,

Even as the blade plunged deep inside her heart.

 

Noy of the Horny Toad lay quiet; as if she'd known her time to die,

As she spoke her blood seeped deep into the floor;

"You can stop my heart from beating but I haven't said goodbye,

I'll come back one day and I will dance once more."

 

The Betel Nut Queen's voice grew softer, but her eyes were open wide,

She knew Noy's ghost had visited the bar;

For though the picture was surely taken long before the dancer died,

In the photograph they could see the dagger's scar.

 

The Betel Nut Queen cried out, and she slumped across the table,

But the girls heard clearly what she said;

"I was that drunken dancer, oh, Noy, forgive me if you're able!"

And the woman who had stabbed her now lay dead.

 

It was a night of wonder, and it happened long ago,

But still they dance on Bangkok's Patpong Road;

And though the bar has changed its name, the legend cannot help but grow,

For none who saw her dance would soon forget - Noy of the Horny Toad.

 

From the book THE GO GO DANCER WHO STOLE MY VIAGRA & OTHER POETIC TRAGEDIES OF THAILAND

 Copyright Dean Barrett 2005-2010

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