Three Poems // Jota Boombaba

The ABCs of Khao San Road

                                                        —Bangkok, 2013

At night, under neon, parties appear
Backpacking tourists hip-hopping the globe
Cram the narrow road with manic music
Drumbeats, electric rock, beers in the air
Even young children run drunk on pleasure
(Families, too, are welcome here in Hell)
Guava, pineapple, papaya for sale
Have you ever tried a fried scorpion?
I settle for a Chang, a hand-rolled smoke
Just don’t sell me another souvenir
Knick-knacks, doodads, mass-produced in China
Leave me be in the midst of this madness
Me, mid-50s, too old to play the fool
No one needs a new tattoo on their face
Or three hooded wives like that bearded guy
People here either sell shit or buy shit
Quality, quantity, no real concern
Recently, a man was stabbed for laughing
Someone thought it rude; no one said a word
The killer kept drinking, dancing till dawn
Until the sun rose, demons undenied
Very few survive such wild indulgence
We wake after noon, vomit and forget
Exactly what we did the night before
Your eyes might roll, thinking I’m some priest
Zoos are fun, even home if you’re a beast

Last Night on Koh Tao

                                                —Gulf of Thailand, 2013

Lost my beaded necklace east of Bangkok
  wore it for a dozen years, then gone
    an old friend disappeared

Several hundred miles south
  fresh new beads around my neck
    I lose my black bandana

Things come, things go
  they enter through an unseen door
    then exit through a window where a wall does not exist

Tomorrow, on the ferry home
  I’ll say So long to this small stone
    five times now in fifteen years

Each time, I’ve smuggled one small piece
  for now, all I hold is this full moon
    this breeze, these gentle lapping waves

Things come, things go
  as I have done and must again
    a firefly, a spark across the sky

Chumphon Ferry

                                    —Gulf of Thailand, 2013

Koh Tao disappears—again
  the island shrinks, small gray minnow
    swallowed by a thirsty sea

Beside a woman on a back-deck bench
  bleach-blonde hair buzzed like a boy
    our tongues are incompatible

I shut my eyes, leave the past behind
  the candlelight, the ceiling fan
    dog asleep on my bungalow steps

I’m a stray, too, solo on the road
  only my breath for company
    so much more than I could ever need

Jota Boombaba, when not on the road, writes poetry in and around San Francisco, where he lives and kicks back with his son. Find him most days at