John Gartland

Nong Kai Train

An old Bangkok hand, 
was drinking with me 
on the Nong Kai train.
“Same old story, I’m afraid,
‘Don’t ever rent a room without 
a spy-hole and a chain, my friend.
The girl says she’ll get more to smoke,
and calls someone, then gets the door,
they burst into your hotel room,
she’s gone, and now you’re ransom bait 
for crooked cop extortionists
that work out of their station
in Thong Lo.
Your wrists are cut from
handcuffs, for a while, but …

The girl? … sold you out
to stay out of jail, probably.
None of them want to go back
to the monkey house, certainly.

In the station, as cops pocketed 
my cash, and checked my cards,
I recognized the officer in charge
as one of my ex-graduates 
from TLAK University. He’d been one 
of the few with any English skills.
Guess the family business never will be
sexy as the drug trade in a uniform.”

He laughed aloud, as the night blew in, 
and the fields rushed by,
and I’d rate that as a major high,
that night on the Nong Kai train.

“I got off with a less than crippling bribe.
He wouldn’t want the TLAK Alumni
tribe at their bullshit banquets,
hearing he’s corrupt. But, after all,
why else do people join the police?”

Never, never rent a room without 
a spyhole and a chain.
Sounds like a comic opera song 
or some virginal refrain; 
or the cool night breeze 
he’s shooting 
on the Nong Kai train.

“You bear the wounds of handcuffs
for a while, but …
that gut-paranoia never goes,
ammoniac fear that whips you sober.
Could be a social paradigm in there, 
who knows? For students of police states.”

The steward brought more drinks;
and the night was far from over;
with a sweet breeze off the ricelands,
as the night blew in, 
and the fields rushed by;
and we rode, with the immortals, 
on the night train to Nong Kai.

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