Phra Nang

Spring never lasts long, even in a seasonless
place. After a few decades, the locals
stop visiting, and soon

it’s all foreigners who pose
in front of my altar, inebriated.
None of them offer anything.

I’ve seen my shores devastated, swallowed
by the angry gills of typhoons.
I’ve seen my waters froth with trash.

Foreigners piss into my ocean
narrowly missing the sharks,
and sometimes on my vengeful days

I wish a shark would bite them,
but mostly, I want quiet.
I want this small mercy.

I want to dive into the Andaman
but this time, swim with the damselfish.
This time, the electric eels would protect me.

Above us, the karst blesses us with silence.
For centuries their skins have eroded.
For lifetimes they’ve listened to my sorrows.

Sally Wen Mao is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection The Kingdom of Surfaces (Graywolf Press, 2023), and the debut fiction collection Ninetails (Penguin Books). She is also the author of two previous poetry collections, Oculus (Graywolf Press, 2019), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Mad Honey Symposium (Alice James Books, 2014). The recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, she was recently a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library and a Shearing Fellow at the Black Mountain Institute.