Before she pulls the hatch

Written by Ida Aroonwong
Translated by May Adadol Ingawanij

[คลิกที่นี่เพื่ออ่านต้นฉบับภาษาไทย]

Closing out the issue “Madman, Madwoman, Madhuman” is an editorial in the form of a poem. It was published in 2013 in Aan (year 5 volume 1: “Age of Insanity”), a journal of literary, arts, and culture criticism that threw its door wide open in search of the contradictory space “between academic specialisation and common sense, between knowledge and feeling,” as Ida Aroonwong stated in the inaugural editorial (English translation). On 23 May 2021, seven years after the coup that slowed down and eventually suspended the journal’s production, the editorial-poem was reposted on the publisher’s Facebook page with the following preamble by way of explanation:

Editor’s note of Aan, the issue before the coup on 22 May 2014, in the midst of whistle-blowing sounds, in the emotion of pent-up alienation that had been building up since the massacre in ’10 and more incidents since, all of which led to the feeling of total isolation as if a stranger to my colleagues, my circles, and to Thai society in its entirety.

Never got back to the same old me after that, and probably never will.

The past is there for its recallability. The present, for suffering through as best as one can.
Later, the Page “Read Publishing” will try to get back to selling books sometimes.
Purging the stock of the past.

Expressing alienation from her contemporaries, both “the righteous left intelligentsia” and “the over-educated weaponising right,” Ida issues an ultimatum:

And now all doors shall be shut
A finality
No more, not anymore
Not a servant
If you don’t understand, you’ll have to (not) understand
When the time comes
A hesitant subject’s final words
Before she pulls the hatch
A mad woman’s primal curse
Before she pulls the hatch

In the original Thai, the words translated as “pulls the hatch” are repeated with a difference: ลั่น-ดาล. The added hyphen urges the reader to parse the words differently the second time around: lan as in ‘emit a loud sound’ + daal as in dueat-daal ‘boiling with fury.’ Read this way, the act of shutting oneself off from the world coincides with the unleashing of pent-up fury. This recalls the scene in small bandhit aniya’s The Dream Under the Sun (also in this issue) where the self-barricaded bandhit bangs on the door to his room to stop neighbors from unlocking it:

That bang on the door stopped them. They talked among themselves:

“Hm, he is still in the room. But why is he so quiet as if he wasn’t in the room? This is the strangest thing.”

“Uncle, uncle,” a man’s voice called out to me. “Are you alive and well?”

[…]

When they didn’t hear me reply, but they believed that I was still alive because they heard the banging and they didn’t smell any foul odor of a corpse from my room, they left. One of them complained:

“This is weird, very weird. This uncle has locked himself inside his room so quietly as if he wasn’t inside. This is abnormal for someone who is sane. But for a mentally ill person, this behavior is very normal. Is he psychotic or not?”

I almost yelled:

“Mentally sound people shouldn’t be involved in the business of the mentally unsound!” I kept silent though.

When someone who calls themselves a mad person says something to society, do they wish to be understood? Calling themselves mad probably entails that they are aware that their words will not sound coherent to their contemporaries, much less be felt in common. Yet, they say it, or rather write it, anyway. To leave a mark, perhaps, to be illuminated and sounded in a saner, more resonant time. In the meantime, while Ida is still finalizing her break with the reality of Thai society, what can be heard in her silent words?


ก่อนลั่นดาล
Before she pulls the hatch

All doors shut, permanently
Demand what meaning of whom, in this finality
A mere breath on this all-too-open land
Mutual understanding, really?
Is it necessary?
From an other to an other
Who’s just as alone, probably

Counting humanist time
Lasting as long as it lasted
As long as back when there were people
Who wanted to hear each other
Today I can’t even hear myself

I have conceded
To not rise above my station
To be silent
To stop
I have stooped as low as I can go
To my wobbly knees
To sink further still
To the extremity of my abjection
Be a defendant who may not defend herself
An accused who won’t be excused
Not against such an accuser
So highly placed
So ingenious
The plaintiff – thevada, it is

Since birth, the elephant’s hind legs
Now worse, pinned underfoot
A colony craning their necks
To watch the onstage drama
Of the front row players–
The righteous left intelligentsia
The over-educated weaponising right
Sino-royalist cult worshippers, elevated star-dust
Indelibly reactionary-right leftwingers
Masters of rearguard advancement

So what do you want me to say?
Is there a difference? Between silence and derangement?
With(out) speakers (there) won’t be listeners
Utterance, finis

(And just don’t ask) What will I write
An infinity of words will still be worthless
Cry, you say? No, no more. Those tears never could fetch a price
The tears of dust-humans beneath regal feet
Are just a puddle for the regal slosh

Their eyes could shed tears
And have tears squeezed out of them
Until the last drop
And still those crystal(-studded) feet would extract more
Would thirst for blood
To purge the land with
Watch out though regal feet
For the multitude with crystal clear eyes

And now all doors shall be shut
A finality
No more, not anymore
Not a servant
If you don’t understand, you’ll have to (not) understand
When the time comes
A hesitant subject’s final words
Before she pulls the hatch
A mad woman’s primal curse
Before she pulls the hatch

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