In the lobby of the hotel
(Where, they say
What happens there must stay)
Stood a bone skinny woman in an ugly purple dress
With no back and hardly any skirt.
Dressed to flirt
Hair a mess,
Tangled, matted, she talked hurriedly,
Seeking reassurance from a cell phone,
A cell phone half hidden from view by tangled hair.
Tangled hair that also hid as it tumbled down,
Her skinny, angular cheek bone, no longer brown
But as purple as her dress from its encounter with the fist
Of the man with the upper body
Sculpted like an African god.
The drunk man who looks like a god
The sullen man who wonders why we’re making such a fuss
Too drunk even to see the necessity of paying her off
With 5,000 baht.
She was never
A bundle of bones in a purple bag
And an ugly temper.
From a well-used position of vulnerability
Reaching out for the only strength available to her,
The strength of the cell-phone,
The strength of wheels and deals made with cops and pimps
And aggrieved solidarity from other working girls
Through the dark narrow streets of Bangkok.
Limping from one man to another,
One wallet after the other,
As they fly in and out,
In and out,
On business trips,
And pleasure trips.
Lying, standing, kneeling
No longer feeling
Their gnawing lips,
On her face,
Her bone skinny breasts,
And their hands only when they are fists.
Even the body sculpted like an African god turns her on
No more or less than the dirty old European retirees
With their saggy speedos on the beach.
What difference does that make to the whores?
Their money is as good as yours
And they can’t hit as hard.
And I, looking into her lean, angular face
As cunning and furtive as a fox
As she stands
In the lobby and demands
I realize I have nothing to say.
We just need to get this taken care of and catch our flight.
I am coherent because I slept that night
A couple of hours anyway.
And I am sober. I could go get 5,000 Baht
From an ATM but I will not
Insult her like that by trying to pay
For her flesh, now purple, or covering up
For the man who should have been a god;
Who looks like an archangel and sullenly counts her price in slips of paper.
The injury is not bad
The bruise will fade
And after all she has made
A life (as much of a life as can be had)
From selling her flesh to men with the bodies of gods
And men with the bodies of slugs.
Men kind and men savage,
Drunk and sober,
Long or short
Large or small.
Purple flesh just costs more. That’s all.
She is already pained
There is nothing to be gained
In beating senseless the man sculpted like a god
For that will not
Better her life,
Erase the bruise
Or pay his dues,
Or make amends to his wife
Pregnant with their first child and home alone
Who will never know or understand
What stayed in Thailand
And what perhaps came home.
In America the next day,
In the heart of a woman who knows what love is
I tell the hooker’s story
And offer up my prayers
For they are all I have to give
And no one else lives
Who will give