“The Dark Angel” and Other Poems * Frank William Finney

The Dark Angel[i]

Slithering through the leadwort and scurvygrass[ii];
Stumbling on the stubble of a Saturday night binge,

she mumbles a curse across the nettles’ needles
A cross to cross across the green.

She leans against the old stone wall
munching on rhubarb from a rusty pail.

The promise of a pie floats
beyond the hills.

The piper’s pipe rests
on the edge of the well.

A trace of tobacco
rides the air.


Yaowarat[iii], 2020

(In the Year of the Rat)

We hobble our way towards the Dancing Dumpling
past cops in terrariums blinking at lights.

Puddles and potholes. Tuk-tuks[iv] and taxis.
The belching of busses, the buzzing of bikes.
Ginger and chillies
ghosting from the woks.

Wisps of sandalwood swirl
towards the shophouse lanterns,

Wafts of burnt spirit money[v]
haunt our nostrils and curse
our eyes

But we’ve paid our dues
and won our prize:

A steaming bowl of Chee Cheong Fun[vi]:
A treat to tingle every bud
of our tongues.


Ms. Periwinkle

Her perfume snuffed
by the stench of soiled towels:

The taste of tears
beneath the shell.


—About the Author—

Frank William Finney is currently based in the Boston area. He worked in Thailand as a lecturer in literature and writing for 25 years before returning to the United States.

[i] “The Dark Angel” is one of several nicknames for Mary Ann Cotton (1832 – 1873) who was a British serial killer in the 19th century. Employing poison, she is suspected of murdering as many as twenty-one people, including her husbands and children. (Source:  Murderpedia.)

[ii] “Scurvy grass is an herb. Its leaves and flowering parts are used to make medicine.  Scurvy grass gets its name from the fact that sailors used to take it to prevent a disease called scurvy. People get scurvy when they don’t get enough vitamin C (vitamin C deficiency), which is found in citrus fruits. Scurvy was a frequent problem among sailors who couldn’t get fresh fruit while at sea. . . scurvy grass flowers have a strong fragrance and taste when they are rubbed.” (Source: WebMD)

[iii] Yaowarat is the main road in Bangkok’s Chinatown, famous for its markets and places to eat.

[iv]  tuk-tuk: (in Thailand) a three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as a taxi.

[v] “Spirit money, also known as ghost money, is a form of joss paper, an offering used in traditional Chinese ancestor worship.  The burning of spirit money is the last ritual performed by a family member during a traditional funeral ceremony to ensure a favorable outcome in the afterlife.  It is also commonly used in ancestor worship rituals during important holidays.” (Source: Wake Forest University, Museum of Anthropology)

[vi] Steamed rice rolls.