i. don’t fear god
atop the waterfall, champasak province,
wild coffee growing bloodclot-red,
banana shade at each side of the river,
ai Lon and Athith wet-to-their-knees,
heavy-wide sun cooking us brown
as the rainsoaked earth, i considered
how quick the jump would kill me.
the mist at the bottom obscured rocks
brutal and civil as rows of daggers.
ii. what is good is easy to get
the mango, a lump of dripped dawn.
the mosquito net, a holey shield against night.
the sticky rice, pearls of sugar pulled from mud.
the men asleep beside me, beautiful snoresong.
the wet heat, it is breath. it is all things.
the palms, arms overwhelmed with coconuts.
iii. don’t worry about death
ai Lon died two years ago, four years after the month we lived together, rose early, drank coffee, drained beerlao in the hotel’s shiny lobby, hauled plastic bags of mangosteen and longan to temples. we hadn’t talked in a while, and then he was gone. i don’t know how to be funny when my friends die. not yet, at least. i remember my uncle joked about the corpse of my grandmother as we carried her casket to the altar. i laughed, because what else?
iv. what is terrible is easy to endure
when i left laos, i cried every day.
i cried over the same two poems.
i looked at pictures and cried.
i stood in walmart and cried.
i rented an apartment, got a nice job,
reunited with a woman i loved, and cried.
autumn descended, a season missed
like a lost appendage, and i cried.
winter was a brick through the window:
cried. cried in phoenix, new york,
new haven, minneapolis, cried on pizza
and into beer, good beer, beer i’d craved!
one june day, i drove up to maine
in my cousin’s car. ate lobster rolls,
bowled, laughed. peeped lighthouses
hammered into the jagged stone coast.
took a candid photo on the beach, sand whipped
my winterwhite face pink. gulls squealed
sharp into a preposterous distance.
BRENDAN WALSH has lived and taught in South Korea, Laos, and South Florida. His work has appeared in Rattle, Glass Poetry, American Literary Review, Maine Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and other journals. He is the author of 6 collections, including Buddha vs. Bonobo (Sutra Press) and fort lauderdale (Grey Book Press). His latest collection, concussion fragment, winner of the 2020 elsewhere chapbook contest, was released in February 2022. He is co-host of the Fat Guy, Jacked Guy podcast with Stef Rubino.