At a Mall in Bangkok

by Marc-André Germain
Mosaic Musings
Honorable Mention, July 2009
Judged by George Szirtes

(Based on Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California”)

What fancy I entertain of you tonight, Nan, for I rummaged through swarming sidewalks under rose and azure neons with a heartache, ever sentient, scanning the dim sum shops.
In my desolation, and shopping for memories, I investigated unfashionable malls, dreaming of your lamentations.
What mobile phones and what umbrellas! Clans of friends shopping at night! Boys between the skirt racks, misses in the arcade! — and you, Mr. Director, what were you doing down by the pawn shop?
I saw you, Nan, alone, alluring crestfallen mistress, sauntering among the trinket vendors and eyeing the foreigners walking by.
I heard you address each one of them: Hey you! Where you go? Where you from? Do you speak Thai? Do you have girlfriend?
I carved my way through flashy stacks of bags and shoes stalking you, and stalked in turn in my imagination by an immigration officer.
We traipsed around the subway station together in our solitude and fancies tasting plum puddings, possessing a specimen of every accessible sweet, and never entering the station.

Where are we going, Nan? The station closes in half-an-hour. Which way do your glass shoes point tonight?
(I reach for your photo, the one you gave me not so long ago, and feel both guilty and liable…)
Will we ramble all night through noisy and noisome streets? Placards adding noise to noise, lights out in the shops and flats, we’ll both feel lonely.

Will we meander dreaming of a perfect love and a perfect future past the driveways of family duplexes?
You knew that I could never provide that for you, and catching my reflection in a scooter mirror, now I can own that too. Long after you will have moved into these quarters, I’ll be traipsing around the subway station, a ghost of you followed by a ghost of me.

"At a Mall in Bangkok" is, as it says, based on Ginsberg, but it does a delicious and convincing job, better than pastiche and perfectly appropriate. Aurally it has plenty of variety and authority. I liked it very much. I didn't think it would quite win because of that single direct obvious debt to its avowed model, but there is a real gift here, a breadth that could go its own way. --George Szirtes