Two Poems by David Fedo


1

Avoiding My Inner Goat

Passing through Singapore by chance
I am asked by another expat drinker at Harry’s
the day before the Chinese New Year
what my zodiac sign is
and I reply that
like qigong or mahjong or cricket
I really have no idea.
He persists.

“Born in 1943?
You’re a goat, if I remember this all correctly–
sympathetic, determined, even artistic,
which is certainly nice,
but also
and get this
moody, indecisive, weak-willed.
Myself I’m a dragon.
My ex-wife was into this stuff big-time.”

I nod without saying very much.
We drink on into the night.
Apparently, I am too indecisive to leave.

But sometimes I wonder about
the meaning of this random exchange
and about all of those goats, dragons, horses and pigs
gallivanting over the Asian landscape
masquerading as us.
Or masquerading as other animals
because, as I learned much later,
that dragon might also be one’s internal snake
as well as one’s secret ox
which makes the whole zodiac thing,
East or West, confusing as hell.

I prefer to have my conflicts straightforward
and without animals involved at all–
about good and evil, for example,
or about the ethics of euthanasia
even though
being weak-willed
I can never make up my mind on these matters.
Of course real goats have their own worries.

2

 At the Killing Fields, Years Later

Of this plot of spilled blood and crushed bones
there is no hope of forgetting,
or of remedy, or of justice.
Sometimes suffering is so complete it is forever,
for generations unending.
It breeds no heroes,
proclaims no glory,
inspires no national poetry.
Even time is a fainthearted healer.

The sun scorches us as we walk these blistered grounds,
bits of bones and pieces of tattered clothes
still visible, after many years, under our feet.
Nearby is the ghoulishly famous tower of skulls.
An Israeli tourist in our small group whispers,
“At least in our holocaust others did it to us,
but here they did it to themselves.
Why?”
Here death is the only face.

After so many decades
asking why leads only to shrugs, to nothing,
as it does with so much else on this planet,
one catastrophe or horror after another,
in Cambodia then and elsewhere now,
for example Afghanistan and Syria,
unending, relentless, perhaps forever.

fedo

Author of Carrots (Ethos, 2009) David Fedo, a professor for five years at the Singapore branch of WheelockCollege (Boston) and has travelled and written widely about Southeast Asia.  He is now Academic Vice President Emeritus at Curry College (Milton, Massachusetts).

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