River of the Hungry Ghosts

Tammy Ho Mai Ling has written a very powerful poem “Better Than a Good Friend” 
The following is what I wrote as a comment to her poem:

This is a rather sad piece. Full of pathos. One gets the feeling that despair was alive and well in that river. That the river and the people there were living like hungry ghosts. The dead and the living side by side in anguished agony of life.

Sad to say such misery continues in our world. It’s hard to think on this as we sit down to eat our store bought meals or restaurant fare. One wonders how Tammy can conjure up such sad dark images, so poignant and true that feel like knives jabbing our hearts with her powerful words.

The invocation of river, family and ancestors conjures feelings of the continuity of the past to the present in a way that feels fragile and heartbroken in its shadowy depths.

Thank you Tammy for this beautiful poem. I am awestruck by your poetic vision. Your genius and vision lights the way for us.

I was so moved by her poem that I wrote a poem which is from the point of view of a person who stayed back at the river with the other starving people

Who was that boy
And where did he go
Yes he was an orphan
His parents dead, long dead
Not right in the head we thought
But what did we really know
What did we really know of him
Who had it better
The living or the dead
Still His mother loved him
Or so it seems to me
Though she died when he was young
Some kind of fever took her
And not long after
His father died too
We have no doctors here
Or money for medicine
All that was left for the boy
Were his father’s shoes
We all had nothing
And even less when the boy left
Taking those shoes with him
What of the river you ask
The river was dead too
Dead, a long ways dead
Though still flowing past
Like some crazy ghost
That has not figured out
What had happened to it
Why did the boy leave
Why did we not leave with him
You could say it was
Just our fate to stay
Who can say
Who really knows
Maybe it was the shoes
Maybe it was the shoes that did it
Maybe the shoes made him go
Maybe it was his fate to leave
I followed him a little ways
But then came back
I don’t think he saw me
But I saw him as he passed our house
I saw his ghostly shadow
Reflected in the dark water
Distorted with watery strangeness
But still his shadow all the same
We haven’t died here
Sometimes in dreams
It seems like we have died
Hungry ghosts with hungry bodies
Lingering at the waters edge
Waiting and Waiting
Sometimes I dream of those shoes
Sometimes I dream of wearing them too
Sometimes I just eat the shoes
But then I awaken, still hungry
Always Always hungry
Along this water way

April 2010

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