A World Away

A World Away

I hold nothing against flow and destiny
As the traffic along Preah Monivong Road.
At the moment there is no suffering fool
Down there, even if from a shophouse
A Buddhist prayer for the dead
Tears the humid air, and the crash
Of downpour cannot drown it.

So there’s the rain, a funeral, a darkening sky,
A street where lives are found and lost.
I see motions of people but I decline
To take them in from this height
As though I were god contemplating
The country of fears, the gravity of faith
Weighing down each man’s troubled sleep.

And then there’s your email that explains
Why in my dream you got on a plane,
Leaving me a cloth-bound dagger:
“Am back here in Toronto after marathon tours
In Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, all lovely cities,
And the countryside of Manitoba and Winnipeg.
I remember you throughout.
I hope one day I will hear from you.”

Of course you will hear from me, even if I keep
Burrowing into my silence,
Bracing for occasional deaths.
I keep getting stunned and feeling soberly alive
Like by the beauty of rain that descends
Like a shroud upon Phnom Penh.
I would break into a song for gratitude
Of desolation. I would touch pale moon
In a heartland not of this.

12-14 June 2004
Phnom Penh, Cambodia


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