The Kind Young Man with the Shy Smile

Jen Ashburn

-After Yona Harvey


WOMEN    America          much power      says
               in                 have                     he

driving his van               over         red-clay roads
                       carefully         the                         of  Laos


             have            power        
Woman           much             

his uncle                 in Hawaii
                 who lives                told him


                           IF     man

hits                 the police         come
        his wife                    will                            Woman            



The van driver                     to drive these roads
                      whom I paid                                              

         a wife

                  a pregnant wife        a four-year-old
                                           and                           daughter


He      nice       me                    the men              are nice     me
      is          to                      All               in  Laos              to


He drives carefully       talks            rice
                            and          about         harvesting        

         with his                     

He waits patiently            I take photos 
                           while                         and think

     this           who        his wife?
Is         a man        hits         


He waits patiently            I take                   Pia Vat temple
                            while             photos of


                                    destroyed     1968
which we (Americans)                    in          except


                        Buddha                    statue charred black
for a stubborn                 a resilient


               ask                   wife
I cannot         about his


Why don’t        marry              over noodles                      
                  you           he asks                                                


In Laos                         alone                           
            you cannot live                   he says               In Laos



Jen Ashburn recently completed her MFA at Chatham University in poetry and creative nonfiction. She has work published or forthcoming in Grey Sparrow; Pretty Owl Poetry; Anak Sastra; The Poet’s Billow; Puff Puff Prose, Poetry and a Play Vol. II; and the anthology Make Mine Words (Trinity University Press). She lives in Pittsburgh.