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Tuk-Tuk

 A poem by Chase Ambler

tuktuk1

 

A few baht admits you to

the piercing gasoline stench,

the waft of grilled meat through smoke,

the air hanging with water,

the orchids and perfumes to

overwhelm the stray dog shit.

Mangoes, pineapples,

coconuts, lychee

drift through everything.

All through the tuk-tuk’s exhaust,

it’s Bangkok in a bottle.

 

A few baht admits you to

the harsh whine of motorbikes,

the pipes of Japanese cars,

the incessant nightclub beats,

the hollers of drunk tourists

over beggars’ instruments.

Sellers, hagglers,

Horns, screeching tires,

Sky-train announcements.

Over the putting engine,

Southeast Asian audio.

 

A few baht admits you to

the mass Seven-Elevens,

the barbed wire median,

the walking overpasses,

the half-white models in adds

with full-Thai whores in side streets.

Bright colored awnings,

pirated movies,

stray dogs, push cart food.

Underneath the black cloth top,

Sukhumvit, the silver screen.
A few baht admits you to

the cool ribbed Fanta in hand,

the sweat that clings to the chest,

the hot wind over the face,

the grill smoke that stings both eyes

more raw than onion juices.

Acceleration,

three wheeled uneasy

tilt, sway, lean, swerve, stop.

All with tuk-tuk vibrations,

you take a trip to Thailand.

 

~Reflection~

Having attended high school in Thailand, I believe the best way to experience Bangkok is by taking a tuk-tuk taxi. For those of you that are unfamiliar with tuk-tuks they are a kind of Thai taxi that’s a hybrid between a motorcycle and a car. They are three wheeled. The driver sits up front with the single wheel, and the passengers sit in the back on a bench seat between the two rear wheels. They are covered on the top, but usually open on the sides so you can really experience the city/country you’re in.

In “Tuk-Tuk” I tried to give a few of those experiences through four senses divided in four stanzas: scent, audio, visual, and tactile. I still like the alliteration that I used on the ending lines of each stanza. I feel that the little device gives that extra punctuation to round out the section before shifting gears and moving onto a different sense in the next stanza.

I think I successfully emulated the feeling of driving though the packed, busy streets by using short line breaks. Each line is very truncated, and each stanza sort of speeds up in the second half when it devolves into a sensory list instead of full lines. Both of those keep the pace high and the senses fleeting because you’re on the move—never lingering anywhere too long.

I hope that the poem gave you a tiny glimpse into traveling in Bangkok by not only showing the great but also the unfortunate aspects of the city. If you do get a chance to make it to Southeast Asia, Tuk-tuk is the way to travel so you can experience the exhilaration of zipping through the colorful streets with the hot, humid air rushing through the vehicle from all sides—bringing in the culture with it.


Chase Ambelr - Headshot Chase Ambler is an American writer who spent his childhood in South and Southeast Asia. His life has been shaped by strange obsessions: heavy metal music, mountains, travel, and soccer. These subjects have all molded his poetry and prose in some way, but the birth of his daughter may have the greatest impact yet. He lives with his wife, baby daughter, and dog in Colorado. If one went looking for Chase, they could find him anywhere from changing diapers to summiting 14,000 foot mountains, but odds are he’s in front of the computer working on his next novel. Visit the FB page for his Novel: Snowsong

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