Between Empires: the reissue

Like the poems in The Happy Farang, the pieces that make up the two parts of Between Empires—namely, Peace Falls and Forever Wende—are predominantly about the travelling experience. In fact, pretty much every series of poems I’ve ever written is about travelling. Seems I’m not much good at (or interested in) anything else.

Anyway, here we are in 2012, and I’m knee-deep in some kind of sentimental journey whereby I’m going back through all of my old writings, looking for affirmation. But affirmation of what? The fact that I was actually writing? Or travelling? Or writing about travelling? Gaaaah!

Reading these poems again is a slightly awkward experience for me, although I’m hoping that others don’t feel that way. I get the feeling that there’s something missing in the lines, perhaps a result of the fact that they were composed by hand (i.e., hand-written) and then typed up in a word processing programme. But there’s something else missing, and I’m not even quite sure what it is.

I guess a lot of travel writing has to grapple with a sense of being out of time, or place. These poems certainly don’t ‘belong’ in the context in which they’re now being presented to the world. They’re a bit like the poem ‘Thomas Pynchon and the Art of Anonymity Maintenance’, which I wrote while in Thailand, and which appears in The Happy Farang, but which has nothing to do with either Thailand or travelling.

During my travels in 2002, I was on a train heading from NYC to Buffalo, when I saw this guy sitting across from me, who I will swear to this day was Thomas Pynchon himself. I tried to engage him in conversation, but to the end he swore his name was Jerry. Perhaps the spirit haunting the poems in Between Empires is also called Jerry. Perhaps he never existed.

In any case, it would be another three years before I wrote about Pynchon again. But that is the subject of another blog post. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these poems for what they are: brief excerpts from an itinerary long since forgotten; random thoughts from a diary never kept.

Download volumes I and II of Between Empires: Peace Falls and Forever Wende.

the happy farang

hello! - i am so happy to be a farang
in your country relieved to discover
this word that describes me & pleased
to be here spending all my money on
trinkets & going to the toilet - hooray!
now even my shit is farang! a foreign
body yearning to be assimilated! get
out of thailand i say to my ungrateful
excrement leave more room for kfc &
coke i look forward also to depositing
another 500 baht at the airport (also
farang) & can't wait to develop all of
my excellent photos

                        - bye for now!


she loved me for a matter of seconds
but her affair with the monks promises
to be a lifelong obsession hey that hurts -
right there doc can you lance jab pop it
cut it out? look at this it's a postcard
she sent me - monks! you think that's
trivial? wait till you see the photos!
monks on bicycles monks on chao phraya
river express ferry monks carrying food
bowls happy monks monks sitting on the
'reserved for the monk' bench in hualam-
phong railway station monks watching tv
monks patting mutant temple dogs & monks
hanging out - oh to be a monk!
                                         - ouch!

thomas pynchon & the art of anonymity maintenence

the choice of sunglasses is important
but on the maple leaf? ray-bans are out
too miami vice ... beatle specs no dead
giveaway (tint in sunlight) chem-mart?

anonymous average ok collared shirt
i'd prefer a gaudy hunter s. thompson
hawaiian no. but beige is a city colour
camouflage same with pants & as for
loafers? i shudder ... afraid so ... dumb

haircut also necessary a weekday's truly
impenetrable disguise thus my surprised
& anxious fury in the bright


i shouted

fuck you pal! on my way back to Macy's
but on reflection maybe the cheap fucking
sunglasses did give me away after all.