Wat Nong Bua Yai

Before the State had built the dam
and Mother River wet the ochre earth
with her reckless kiss,
our villages converged here
like veins meeting at the heart
or rice-grains gathering in the gut.

My friends and I would play, our noodle-arms
hung off the tamarind trees.
Our parents sat out on patterned mats,
their bright sandals strewn out to dry.
The smells, the sounds, the small gods
for rain, for rice, for ritual.

Then waters came and people split apart.
Temple walls were washed and wrapped
and we wept for the scattered bones
of fat days roasted on the spit of youth.
The State had weighed the temple’s loss
as a bearable cost of ‘progress’.

Twenty years on and half that in drought,
our drum-skin dirt is laced with rust,
cracked and tanned—a parched throat
dredging up milled memories,
the temple’s gates and pillars whittled thin,
with stairs leading nowhere but the past.

When news came, many of us flooded back
watering this place with our remembering.
Ladies in stands selling drinks, snacks,
delicate birds for merit, lottery tickets.
Warm chatter and smoke fill the air again,
the sound and smell of pork fat crackling.

My thick arms hang bright flowers on
the Buddha, headless, but earth-firm.
I pray, though I am grateful to return.
I pray for rain, for rice, for remembering,
and for our farmers and fishermen,
whose ways and means recede with the water.





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