No Gifts from War

by Angkarn Chanthathip

The rubber trees in father's plantation are ready to be tapped
The steadfast trees are deeply rooted
Their leaves and trunks dappled by the late-morning sun
The hills thick with dreams and hope

Blood of the father and sweat of the sun grew this together
The father's body may be far away but his heart is not
The whole plantation waits for his safe return
So that he can reap the rewards of old age

The son's dream lives in the father's dream
The Brave Warrior longs to become The Farmer
In Bannang Sata he dreams of Nongbalamphu
Hoe, spade, machete wait, day and night, for his gun to be set down

Back from the battlefield
the house and plantation would be quiet: sunrise, birdsong,
smoke from the fire, water boiling, tea in the pot,
the scent of oleander, the fading smell of gunsmoke

Peace - means to seek and create another life
Patrol - an anecdote to recount years later
Duty - your children gathered around ready to listen
Fear - no need for caution any more

A modest dream - no desire to be a hero -
unassuming right to the end
His family just wants him back in one piece
The gift left behind after war has ended

Hope will never be lost
Despite nightmares it prevails
It's what everyone wants
Everyone caught in the crossfire

Hearts won't heal
while the country is a factory weaving flags for coffins
while it manufactures suffering
and digs up hatred while burying suffering

Grandfathers: the blameless earth
once again is drenched in blood
The south's new war reverberates with the north-east's memory
Nongbualamphu is shattered by the news

A nightmare extinguishes the dream of Bannang Sata
Lost, longed for, exiled
It's the nation's gift, its last reward
to take the farmer from his son forever

Such a small dream - and suddenly you're a hero!
A myth created, a dream destroyed
The farmhouse waits in vain for the old man's return
Who destroyed the gift? Who betrayed the promise?

The literal translation of this poem was made by Tracey Martin

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

Notes

Nongbualamphu – a province in north-eastern Thailand (site of the rubber plantation)
Bannang Sata – a district in Yala province in southern Thailand (where the father was murdered)

This poem was inspired by the murder of the respected Colonel Sompian Eksomya by a roadside bomb in Bannang Sata, a district in Yala province, in March 2010. Aged 60 at the time of his death, the powerful reaction in Thailand to his murder was intensified by his age and long service: many people felt he should have been allowed to retire to his rubber plantation, founded with his son, years earlier.

Thailand has been plagued by conflict and insurgency for many years provoked by ongoing border disputes with Cambodia, conflict between different ethnic groups and a coup d'etat that took place in 2006.

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