In Memory of Home (Presenting the Past)

The town where I grew up
is not a western town
or an eastern town.
It’s stuck in the middle with
the warriors, east of India
and the wobbly devastator,
west of the Chindwin.
Beyond that the west walks
into the blues on the sandy plains,
and the east through palms
and across rapids.

In the lurid cities
where they paint their street crawlers
red, green, blue and yellow
in full intensity,
where they dye their clothes
like spring flowers in full bloom,
where they paint everything deep bright
and strange faces stir them
like that curiosity, all of a sudden,
is what they were born for–
there they get the barking dog
more than your eloquence.
They complain you don’t love the dog,
and I see you don’t hate
the street dogs, nameless as the homeless.

The chemist’s son from the ancient
town outskirts, a cat lover,
once when he went with his cat
to the east on a shooting trip,
found a Burmese poet pissing
music from his mouth while
the actor’s cat slurped milk off
his small upturned lips.
That was a family slurp.
The static of the east air swaddled
the poet’s trunk into a muzzled
pig squeak the actor knew.