They packed up, sold their home,
and free
of everything they owned
they built a place for butterflies
outside Luang Prabang

A handsome couple,
Swedes or Danes;
he sold the tickets and she ran the cafe.
Business was slow,
but they seemed to like it that way

It was near some rare bears
and a blue series of pools
that sluice down
through the limestone – a local swimming spot –
and the markets
that throng
points of interest,
whether you want them or not

Downhill
the Swedes
had their own bit of stream,
a whole slope,
stocked with those nibbling fish
that swarm the
callused feet
of tourists

While I soaked mine,
a butterfly stopped on my thong
enclosed, an attraction
like the white-collared bears up the road
gathered like evacuees
from the burned mountains
the smoke only now tamped down
by the wet’s first rains
a few days in advance of
the New Year here

Children lined the road
like heralds,
slinging buckets of Mekong
into the open bed of our truck,
the Laotian reserve all gone:
we foreigners
paid the compliment
of being fair game,
included in the revels

Some took it as affront
back in town,
sticking close to hotels,
their wallets
worn on lanyards,
sealed in plastic bags

I bought a pair of pistols
and fired back,
running past the riverside crews
with their full
barrels
and missiles of dyed flour

In the midst of a gunfight
I ran into the road
and a motorbike slammed
its rough surface of tyre
at walking pace
into my thigh

I ran on, dripping,
my pistols near empty,
looking for a tap

Water ran through that day,
from the falls
to the river soon swollen,
a brown plenty they could throw away,
borrowing against the monsoon,
a marvel to this
Australian child of drought.