Like a contemporary Moll Flanders, the beautiful Mai-Ying progresses from Bangkok peepshow performer to bar-girl, unpaid British housemaid, escort hostess to finally mistress and soon-to-be wife of a wealthy industrialist. In this comedy of manners, Mai Ying is the poorly-educated but knowing student of male hypocrisy — until she falls for the industrialist's son and enjoys the raptures of physical possession that she has supplied to men but not felt before.
What did the Lord Buddha say those centuries ago? Under-stand yourself and be always kind to others. So Mai-Ying is, but becomes a pawn in English social life where commodities of beauty and human affection are traded for family loyalties and appearances.
Mai-Ying left her village to support her ailing father and sister, but learns they despise how she earns that money. But Mai-Ying is the great seductress, the laughing and rapacious sorcerer, and she returns to Thailand not a whit restrained or sadder for her adventures in the cold and respectable land of farangs.
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Spread in the brightness of morning, ever
entangled and pounced on in a strange bed,
Mae-Ying the beautiful is laughing:
as plate-glass through her pounds the heart,
but legs are beating as will a bird
that goes for the lift and fervour till dropped
into the quiet fulfilment of all
lives passing into the strong Chao Phraya.
Before I was girl only, a simpleton
working in the wet fields and the far
plantations of the Pha Mieng Hills.
Long distance by bus and days taking
me on from father and sister sick
in Baen Pang Mai Daeng,
with its bewildering festivals and every
one laughing at great drench in clothes.
I am Mae-Ying of the bright eyelids
and of adulterous attachments seeking
the soft dust trafficking the evenings
as the trees press into the back yard.
I am the compositor of the bright lights
and denizen also of the night lands
of rest. Laughing and more rapacious
than is the mantis, I extend
an unruffled impudence behind me
in my hot cauldron of pants,
not scanty or voluminous
but intricately fashioned in the machinery
of my shaping: So is Mae-Ying
of Baen Pang Mai Daeng,
the village of four pagodas, flaunting
herself through Patpong's smart hotels.
And if something unmitigatingly
sad is going away as though saturated
with what have sinned in, O my Lord
Buddha, I will pay you an offering
of six prayers if you find me husband
among the rich farangs, when truly
I will be faithful if he take me Milwaukee,
or Chicago, be good wife pushing trolley
round with children in the obedient
tree-lined streets I know in films.
But now in Leeds on temporary visa,
with Glen who no is American
but cares for mother. In small house
I do beds, shopping, cleaning, cooking.
It bare in winter, true, and sometimes
flowers, respectable, look hard at me.