LEADERS - not followers

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Sow's Ear

Existing below
the poverty line,
a proud woman
gives thanks to Buddha,
observed by the monks
of Wat Sutapradid

Short of a few Baht,
Yai Phrae , as she’s known,
‘Old Mother Silk’,
scratches a living
helping to raise pigs
for a few hours a week.

Her payment, not cash;
Ears, trotters, noses
and intestines
she takes to market
in nearby Non Sang
on Wednesday afternoons.

Traded, not for cash,
but rice, or silkworms
in their cocoons.
Yai Phrae is content
with the arrangement.
She walks with head held high.

The Dak Dae – silkworms,
she eats with Khao Nieow -
glutinous rice.
She’s a survivor.
Nothing is wasted;
and nothing discarded.

Cocoons become thread,
spun on an old wheel.
Below her shack
the thread is tie-died,
and a makeshift loom
transforms thread into cloth.

Cloth becomes dresses,
jackets and trousers,
Practical magic;
sow’s ear, now silk purse.
Poorest girl now best dressed.

Twenty years later,
her shack is transformed
into a home.
No cash is involved.

There’s still work to do,
but her life is complete.

Silk Purse


The cocoons are boiled to release the fibres,
so they can be spun into thread. This process
also cooks the cocoons’ residents; silkworms,
which are edible.
When alive, the silkworm is Tua Mai, in Thai.
Once cooked, it is known as Dak Dae.
The word for ‘silk’, generally, is Mai. More
specifically, ‘silk thread’, but used in reference
to silk items.
The word Phrae, is used exclusively in reference
to a length, or lengths, of silk fabric.