Friend: a poem from behind the bars

 
Patiwat S., the author of this poem and a student in the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts at Khon Kaen University, was arrested on 14 August 2014 in relation to a complaint under Article 112 of the Criminal Code in Thailand, which stipulates that, “Whoever, defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The complaint against Patiwat is in relation to his role in a play, “The Wolf Bride,” (Jao Sao Ma Pa), performed in October 2013 at Thammasat University in Bangkok. Patiwat and another person involved with the performance, Pornthip (last name withheld) have been arbitrarily detained for over forty days without charge while the police investigation is ongoing.
 
This poem, “Friend,” was originally published in Thai on Prachatai. The poem is an essential record of the experience of political detention following the 22 May 2014 coup. -- translator
 
 
FRIEND
 
O friend, a time of suffering
It could be you instead of me
 
Full of woe and difficulty
Caught, unfamiliar and without celebration
 
Look after my mother
Saddled with poor health
 
My younger brother is at home
Watch out for him
 
Cows and buffalos dwell under the house
My gratitude to you for taking care of them and not chasing them away
 
My sought-after motorbike
Ride it at your pleasure
 
The field full of rice
Harvest and eat it, sell what is left over
 
A large photograph of my grandmother hangs on the wall of the house
Please wipe the dust that settles on and coats it
 
The school where I once studied
Tell the teachers who nurtured me
 
I will slip out of my imprisoned body
My shadow will come study
 
Tell my nearby love
To write a letter to me if she is free
 
To stop by and visit
If I disappear, care for her
 
O friend, my friend
Do not become fed up by the stories you hear
 
Ashamed, I cannot bear to look at you
Please accept my apology
 
But you remain within reach
Do not bid me farewell and become invisible
 
Send water and rice with fish
For me to eat to endure suffering
 
Disheartened, you await a new sky
Bright not mottled
 
I clutch the bars in anxiety
Worried that you will come under threat
 
O friend, my friend
Do not abandon me to the dimness as I await interrogation
 
I think of you all the time
My tears fall and I worry about you 
 
(I wait for you all the time
My tears fall and I worry about you)