At Bangkok’s gaudy concrete complexes, emblazoned
with the names of goddesses and French sirens,
large cars with small men inside pull up every evening.
The attendants are quick to place bunny slippers on dusty feet.
The men peer through dim-lit fishbowls, pick out their pretty poisons.
Every girl is experienced.
Every girl is legal.
Every girl is numbered.
Choose a prime multiplied by the hour. Subtract a size
from padded equations, the freshest an undivided flower.
For hours each night, a scrotum of businessmen
are led out of their power suits and into VIP rooms
with a hot tub, claw-legged, gently bubbling over,
submitting to the made-up eyes of made-up women
with made-up bodies and made-up tongues.
The water is warm but not too hot.
The men leave the rustle of silk-split bathrobes.
They clamber into an embrace of water.
There is a slip and sigh. The water splashes out
as the girl tells made-up stories.
She spreads her wings and begins to hum.
The men close their eyes.
And the soapy massage parlours of Bangkok begin to sink.
The water in the tubs is from the ground underneath,
sucked in great illegal gasps through pumps
that hunt deeper and deeper every year. The city
is a well that is not well, the land descends a little
each time a man climbs into a tub with a woman
he will never love. This is the city’s future they are
cheating on. Bangkok soaked under the weight
of lust, a million men jerking to unwanted conclusions,
a million women pumping, spitting out desire,
The groundwater slips and splashes out
and does not find a way back to the earth.
It will whisper down pipes sticky with the aftermath
of desire, it will wind its way through canals bottomed
with concrete that hold off the earth. It will find its way
to some black-hearted river and dump itself into the sea.
The ground is parched, collapses deeper each year to
slake its thirst like the men in their tubs, smooth and fat
with power, whose soft hands can no longer grip the edges
of the city to heave themselves out, dripping and wet.
They are landlords who have built even higher
as basements turn damp with a rising tide,
as they sit in soap bubbles and close their heavy eyes
plied with cheap whisky and easy land-grab deals.
The water is murky with suds and now, a seeping sense of loss.
The men begin to gasp, gurgling groundwater,
and the hands of the girls are tendrils wrapped
around their throats, and they can no longer
see the light in this city of angels.
About the poem: This poem was inspired by a news article earlier in the year which reported that Bangkok is slowly sinking because of the massive amounts of groundwater being illegally tapped by soapy massage parlours.
Like what you read? See more poems by Marc Nair on his page.