In Wat Phanan Choeng,
beneath the eighty-foot gold Buddha
thronged with prostrate devotees,
I’m distracted by a faint tang
almost smothered
by the little trees
of incense-sticks chain-smoking

all around us, and the smell
of so many
votive flowers – purple lotus, culled from ponds
and back-waters; white, waxen bells
of frangipani; jasmine in creamy garlands –
and the ranks of wishful candles.

An acrid, misplaced aroma
amid such prayer, pitching me somewhere between
here and far-back England:
the suedeheaded, orange-robed
monk, blue pot in hand,
applies to his sun-burnt shoulder
a dab of pink Germolene.

Ayutthaya, Thailand

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