At The Ruins Of Bokor Hotel, Bokor Hill Station
The early evening shots slide away as whims of the moment.
One in a full-frame view of seeming immovability and permanence,
Yet the strain of melancholy, of desolation, is far
From abstract. In another frame just as the photographer
Bounds off to another spot, it’s already shrouded in mist,
Hewn as a bulk of edifice now wanting to fade forever.
More shots inside, the empty foyer and halls,
The series of hollow frames as in the temples of Angkor.
The rooms on the upper levels are dripping with rain,
Puddles scatter like islands on the broken tiled floor,
A musty quietness seeps through graffiti-laden walls,
The scribbles read over and over through the deep chills
Of dark hours by the transients of French colonial hold
Through the rampage of the Khmer Rouge.
Within this relic of rolling days, still sturdy and breathing,
I anticipate some apparitions or the lunge of footfalls and voices
Gnarled by the soft wind and mist.
It all started with a half-hearted challenge over a tepid rice brandy,
Drank to fight off the cold, the tiredness in our bones.
Who dares to come for a walk back to the casino?
A scatter of laughs, a dismissal, until the quiet man of the bunch,
Eng, said he wants to go, and Rasmey shakes his head
To confirm the presence of ghosts.
Shortly after, the recruits gather on the road,
The curious brave dozen. Through a spirited Khmer chatter,
Mobile phones lighting the graveled and winding road,
We scan the horizon for landmarks in silhouettes.
Our buoyant driver, Sarun, leads the pack,
Smoking and barking as we get near,
Turn on the lights and set the dice and cards!
Because indeed we, like the barang, are coming!
At the approach, now, before our eyes stands
A black solid mass against the lighter hue
Of the night sky, looking like a sacred temple drawing
Hushed prayers from the pilgrims, its entire dark form
Beckoning another language of enticement,
A kind of going into the unknown.
Because of this, perhaps the currency of shared feeling
Towards a sacred entity, a moral inhibition
Of no-stepping-onto the unfamiliar,
We skirted around the back courtyard
Where a precipice plunges direct into the abyss
Of forest, and spread out before us from afar
Is the glimmer of lights on the fields of Kampot.
Now and here we’re like some navigators faced
With a sudden discovery, framed to silence in the cold,
A reverence for a new strange vision.
20 September 2007
Bokor Hill Station, Cambodia