The Bangkok Gong


Home for a visit, you brought me
a circle of hammered brass
reworked from an engine part
into this curio
to be struck with a wad of cotton
pasted onto a stick.
Third World ingenuity
you said, reminds you
of Yankee thrift.

The tone of this gong
is gentle, haunting, but
hard struck three times
can call out as far
as the back fields
to say Supper
or, drummed darkly,
Blood everywhere!
Come quick.

When barely touched it imitates
the deep nicker the mare makes
swiveling her neck
watching the foal swim
out of her body.
She speaks to it even as
she pushes the hindlegs clear.
Come to me is her message
as they curl to reach each other.

Now that you are
back on the border
numbering the lucky ones
whose visas let them
leave everything behind
except nightmares, I hang
the gong on my doorpost.
Some days I
barely touch it.


Maxine Kumin, Selected Poems 1960-1990, W.W. Norton, 1998.