Sunday, October 25, 2009


I started writing this piece in June of 2008. I had it mostly finished by April 2009, but i still wasn’t completely satisfied. I’ve done a few small edits since then, and a pretty substantial one in August. Today I’m in Vang Vieng Lao, an area of the world that gave this piece a lot of it’s content and this is my semi-final edit. I say semi-final because the memorization process of a piece usually leads to some minor changes.


I rode the coattails
of boom-chaser-dharma-bums
found on yellowed pages
warped pieces of vinyl
& sometimes
downloaded off the internet
looking for something
I’d recognize when I found it

I went to ghost towns,
drank in pubs
low enough to satisfy
the high standards of Tom Waits,
drank the cheapest beer with artists
who sold their paintings
outside of motel bars
like the Hope Motor-Inn
where on my first day of tour
I listened to Ken Paquette
tell me about his 11 or 12 kids,
how his mother was Cree
& he never knew his father
but always felt that
because of his spirituality
the he was part Sioux

I followed poets
who followed poets
across oceans
following idealists
I’d already
formed opinions about
but still, I went

I learned,
while traveling South East Asia,
that speaking English
to the locals
can be a language in itself-
for starters, forget conjugation
& those little words like “is” and “are”
just get in the way
there are a few other changes
such as word order,
but you pick that up quickly
when you’re immersed in it
sentences like “I yesterday go Palabuhanratu”
got me through
Thailand, Lao, & Indonesia

I took every train I could
played a G harmonica,
thought about being Woody Guthrie
tried to convince myself
railway security
was the only thing standing between me
& living the proper hobo life

I sat cross-legged
& drank rice whisky
in the home
of a rice farmer in a village
across the Nam Song, in Lao
& when we ate
I was told
that I eat like a Lao person
I took that as a compliment
& since that day
eating fish with a fork
seems kind of awkward

I accepted hospitality from people
who had so much less than I did
& began to theorize
that maybe
God keeps an ocean between
people like this
& money
so they don’t turn out like us

I sat in that house
elevated on stilts
on a wooden floor
with gaps between the boards
that I could have
dropped coins through
and there
a Lao boy drew a picture of me
& he included the dreadlock
that sometimes
hangs down the middle of my face
that I often draw on myself
when I document my journeys
in black pen on white paper
because my digital camera
had given out on me
a few weeks prior

I saw my ego inflate
but quickly realized
that I didn’t deserve to be
the subject of this boy’s drawing
and that his dad
was far more deserving
of being the subject
of his son’s portrait

I had given him a pad of paper
& and a pencil crayon
with rotating colours
while his dad gets every morning
makes a farm work
raises four kids
(with number 5 on the way)
& on top of that
was willing to invite a complete stranger
into his home
& send him on his way
with an open invite to return
a bottle of whiskey
to keep his stomach warm
when it rains

I was just a traveler
who in the morning
would be on the road, again
at least to them

I looked for these vague notions
of a utopia, nirvana,
an outlet to heaven
on the road
but I didn’t find it
so I kept moving
but I also kept returning

I went caving in Vang Vieng
although I feel anxious in small spaces
& inside the hollows
of the mountains that frame the town
the thought of collapsing caverns,
Norther BC mine disasters,
and Chuck Ragan’s song
Dream of a Miner’s Child
never leave my mind

I went though,
multiple times
& each time
I tried to go further
to challenge myself-
once, I was led through
by a six year old
brought into spaces so small
that I had to crawl
on my stomach
& push my backpack in front of me-
& this one time
four of us
were swimming into a limestone cave
against a current
guided by a single non-waterproof

I literally couldn’t see my hand
in front of my face
when we turned off that lamp
& in that charcoal dark
we sang
Jon-Rae Fletcher’s
rendition of Two Hands

I felt blessed beyond belief
to be surfing in Indonesia
but felt, at the same time
longings for my home breaks,
for water that’s cold
in an enduring way
& surfers
who look like a circus of
black seals
playing in the waves
despite the gray,
and a tree-line with needles

I kept moving
and I kept returning

I’ve been told that
that I have
what my friends call
the hand of God constantly
taking care of me
saving me from cigarette fires
in the bed of my Bangkok guesthouse
or any and every
escape that statistically
I shouldn’t make
but I do
& take for granted

I have a tendency
to view really sketchy situations as
& this is why I look back longingly
to the time spent in a dorm
in a Jakarta hostel that I eventually
realized was kind of
a whore house

I treasure the afternoons
of coffee and cigarettes
with Indonesian prostitutes
who, for me, strongly reenforced
the cliche of the
hooker with the heart of gold

I sometimes think of Conor Oberst
& how he claims that there’s nothing
that the road cannot heal

& I haven’t been coming and going
as long as he has
but I’m not sure
if I’ve healed anything
but the road is
at the very least
a good band-aid

I’d refer to someone
who walks the road
as a nomad
a man of the land
but someone alone
who stays in one place
as a hermit
so I idealize the road
(or the rail or the river)
wrapping loneliness in gauze
& moleskin
until it can be passed off
as solitude

I sat on a boat
that was more or less
a canoe with a propellor
dodging rocks on the Mekong

I sat behind a European guy
who had been traveling the world
for the past nine months

I listened to the European guy
complain about the boat trip
not complying to the schedule
that he was told
to our Lao boat driver
who spoke minimal English
as if sentences that weren’t understood
could change the speed of the river
that we were riding against
if they were repeated enough

I remembered The Gum Thief
& the French Revolution
(well... I remembered learning about the French Revolution)
and how that more often than not
when things happen to people
people mostly just stay the same

& I’m not sure
what this poem is trying to say
it’s not that I’m well traveled
because I’m not

& It’s not to say
I’m different
from any other Westerner
taking advantage
of the opportunities his passport

But this one time
I heard a live recording of
I Still Haven't Found What I’m Looking For
preformed with a gospel choir
played on a minidisk player
by a German DJ with a huge head
(physically bigger than mine)
In Ton Sai, Thailand