0

Walk

Walk

On the ceiling, my eyes lust
For a symbolic text.
But it is white with dumbness,
I only think of the essence
Of breathing, the incoherence
Of rains, the pains my country
Proclaims. The music I hear
Down some street corner:
No, I will not rise for the window,
Let the sickle moon be,
White, let it tremble
Before my eyes. The city’s bums
Are turned into armchair
Veterans of life with their blues,
Their rock music breaking
Their voices into icy loneliness.
This afternoon before the fury
Of rain another human
Has gone over the edge.
I walk on a street filled
With leaves, ghoulish and adrift,
Each one bloating or conjuring sleep.

Cebu, Philippines

Published in Philippine Graphic Magazine (2 September 1990)

0

Meditation in Sisophon

Meditation in Sisophon

A fitful garden flanking the driveway;
Without the car, through the wood-slatted gate,
A shack of a barbershop is visible
From across the road. I had my hair
Cut there in April, the barber aiming to swap talk
Lunged into Vietnamese since he couldn’t do
English and my Khmer is atrocious. Even so, in our
Incomprehension we both knew
Something was shared and understood.

This is a beautiful Sunday morning
I am managing myself.
I set about the chore of cooking rice,
And fry fish thawed from the cold.
Through the hiss of fizzling oil,
I’m making out the meditations of the book,
The Simpsons and Philosophy, like the prognosis
Of Homer as a cartoon man lacking
Aristotle’s phronesis, “ one intellectual virtue
Necessary for an ethical character, namely,
That of practical wisdom… the ability
To steer one’s way through the world
Intelligently, morally, and in a goal-oriented way
.”

I feel an undercurrent of recognition.
I stand in the kitchen door with the book
In hand, the fish in inferno, and I take in
The bright stirrings of the morning:
The trees gently swaying through the breeze,
A lump of cumulus cloud creeping northwest
Through an intense blue space.
In a couple of days as I cross over
The Thailand border of Aranyaprathet,
I shall continue to see how elegant
The sun falls on the surface of things
Like leaves and stones, our dreams and hopes,
And believe something not seen
Would turn up for a rightful reckoning.

18 May 2003
Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia

2

At The Ruins Of Bokor Hotel, Bokor Hill Station

At The Ruins Of Bokor Hotel, Bokor Hill Station

1.

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.

2.

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

0

April In Saigon

APRIL IN SAIGON
(for Ichijo Hiroki)

A fierce April day
When we routed Saigon
On foot and a day later
Our separate incursion
Into the Mekong delta.
Decades after the war
As newly met strangers,
We have the freedom
To toast drinks
And purvey views
On politics and culture
In a street café,
Look at commerce
Flowing in the gutter,
As if napalm was never dropped
Into this country,
Delivered like a morning bread
From a skewered
Overcast sky.

April 2001
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam