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  • Writer's pictureJim Brown

Way to Go

Updated: Feb 2





Pat Pong Street, in the humidity of day; the sticky sun is up, but the sky is gray.

Traffic snarls, horns, belching trucks; busses jockey with scooters, faces in tuk tuks.

The street cafe’s parasol provides little shelter, from Bangkok's wild helter skelter,

And the old man stares out over his chai. No worse or better day on which to die.

 

I notice him sitting in my corner view, beyond my paper as I read what's new,

An old face, no hair, wrinkles, a goatee beard, Serene as a Buddha, but something's weird.

Nobody else at his table, but not alone, a half century’s memories make it his own.

His place to relax, chat with friends over chai. No worse or better place, to choose to die.

 

But the friends are gone now, victims of life, some enjoyed it fully, others sank in strife.

Some went young; accidents, illness, war; others like him would see their setting star.

Life had been good mostly, sometimes bad, that mixture of feelings, happy and sad.

The whole story there, over a good glass of chai. No worse or better life with which to die.

 

He hadn't moved an inch, not even a blink, staring at nothing and everything over his drink.

Not a muscle twitch, itch or passing expression, no emotion of joy, sorrow, or depression.

So I went to the gents and passed with care. His eyes never followed, they were not there.

They just looked past me, past the cold chai. No worse or better way to choose to die.

 

I told the waitress and she looked scared, for although guaranteed, death cannot be shared.

Seats scraped, tables moved, the area cleared, clusters of people, conversations revered

And as I walked away into the sticky day, the old man still sat, his flush now gray.

I thought, as he looked to eternity over his chai, Would that I could choose such a way to die.

 

Jim Brown,   Jan 1998.



This poem is based on an actual event I witnessed in Bangkok in 1990. I had stopped at a street side restaurant for refreshments when I became aware of a bit of a commotion in another restaurant across the road where a group of people had gathered and were excitedly talking. By and by the police arrived and cleared people away and then I could see this elderly gentleman sitting beside a small table with a glass in front of him. He looked almost serene, like the Buddha statues which are such a feature of Thai culture and like them he was sitting upright looking out at the bustling world.


I was taken by just how content he looked and the thought crossed my mind that when my time runs out, it would be hard to beat signing off in such a contented fashion.

The poem was put together over a few years and revised quite a few times before I was happy with the picture I was trying to create.


The Way to Go poem is preceded by a short humorous poem about a fictitious scenario to the Irish Mount Everest expedition of 1993. It has been pointed out subsequently that the person named in that poem was not actually the person who was on the mountain at that time so my apologies for that error.


The video filming took place at the Harrison hotel, Belfast on the 27th March 2023, on what was the first ever reading of my poems in front of an audience. I guess that makes it the premier.


The charity I would like to support with this poem is the Marie Curie end of life charity that supports terminally ill people in their last few months of life. It helps them and their families through what can be a very traumatic time. My friend Elaine Mc Bride spent the last month of her life in a Marie Curie hospice after her long 15 year battle with cancer.  The disease dictated her “Way to Go” but if that turns out to be the way things have to be….. then the care and support Marie Curie provide is invaluable. To donate please click the Marie Curie Just Giving button below.




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