Soft Grey Morning

I woke when the sun cleared the horizon enough
to wake the people sleeping in hammocks under the house,
and they began talking. Their voices
rose through the gaps in the floor-boards,
and I sat up,
feeling the aches of a night spent on a wooden floor.

The light came in through the open front door,
so soft that the world was almost black and white,
and bodies, curled under sheets,
or sleeping in their clothes,
cast huddled shadows like a pride tumbled together through the night time.

At the top of the stairs,
holding the door frame and blinking,
I stared for a while at the Mekong,
feeling the first hints of the heat of the day
drifting, and building.

The click and hiss of my gas stove,
and the clank and rattle and bubble and huff of my espresso pot
died away
leaving the smell of coffee
which was one familiar thing.

I walked across to the edge of the low cliff opposite the house,
the coffee scorching my tongue just right,
and stood watching the river.
There had been a dead dog floating in it the evening before,
Our host had pushed at it with a pole
until it drifted away
as we tried to keep our children’s eyes averted.

Now the water ran silver-grey in the brief cool,
running down from mythology
toward the far-away sea.


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