Making Patterns in Vietnam – a prose poem and a song

To being with it was the uniformity that gets you. You feel as if the patterns on the hillside were reflecting and softening the patterns inside you. Like walking the labyrinth, you are being settled by the landscape.

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Dig your fingers in earth for five minutes has the same chemical benefits as taking a Prozac pill – you’ve repeated this fact so often who cares if a word here and there has fallen off, the meaning of the sentence remains unaltered, and that’s when you notice that the rice fields are of course all different.

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Looking closely, you see the circles and whorls, necessity shaping distinct personalities until you feel you could recognise each rice farmer if you met them. As you walk on you make a game of it,

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let your eyes drift before focusing intensely on one spot.

 

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Inside the barriers to begin with, but then at the walls themselves. Were they made by hand? How did they hold firm?

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And isn’t this what you are trying to do – to build walls around yourself just so you can stand up. Only close up becoming distinct, recognisable? But get too close, and you miss the true miracle. How, despite everything, you’re still clinging on. One of many, a small part of the pattern. You walk on. And on.

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And now here’s a treat. A Vietnamese friend let me record him playing a traditional Black Hmong song on a leaf just for you…

Painting the garden blue – a visit to Marrakesh

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The year they painted the world blue

was dull with tea leaf skies;

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it was the same year we lost yellow,

sat despondently in front of brown traffic lights

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tried to remember how once a golden sun

warmed our skin, and when red was just a warning.

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We argued over green –

could it really have been so alive

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that it changed with every season

and only in winter did it drop from the trees?

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Our children were not the only ones to cry at this,

but even our tears were clear drops of loss

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as we whispered words of purple, orange, turquoise.

No wonder we fought over the paintbrush,

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pretended we were happy

and that the world was still beautiful.

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