Sovanna Baitong

Sovanna Baitong

Brimful of water, the tank placed high
On wooden posts unlooses its load.
Water whooshing down on the blades
Of grass and shrubs- clear silver gleaming
In the four o’clock afternoon sun
Against leaves of fruit trees.

There’s the hum of cicadas hanging in the air,
A tantalizing drone of an impending rapture;
Farmers on the field plough and hoe the soil
For new rows of crops, the weather this time
Predictably favorable, wedged between
Extremes of rain and heat.

Later as fruits quietly bud in the glow of dark,
Chickens and birds roost on the branches,
The villagers, after a meal of simple dish-
Could be raw vegetables and prahoc
Will turn into fitful sleep, their bodies
Will be drained of harshness, their songs
Configuring harmony to leap into a new day
Like the fish in the lake of Baeng Meas.

*prahoc –is a popular Cambodian fish paste


Later Must Be Bach

Later Must Be Bach

As I breathe back into a known world,
The puddles reflect pieces of dawn: breaking gently,
Gray turning blue, corporeal like a rock.
The frogs with their shrill voices
Shake the still slumbering earth,
The farmers’ crops, the interior of forests.
From where I’m sitting, collecting the bread
Of the day, the nearest stern slender two-trunk tree
Stands impassive yet growing distinct
Through the creeping light.
Now I surmise there is tentative
Pause of rain, a wider berth of work and talk
For us, vegetation, deer, gibbon, snake, civet,
From so much water, so much dampness;
We’ve long known patience for lingering dark clouds.
Now I set my tea, its warmth being
Planted on the skin of my palms and sends
Resonance of newness,
A prayer unfolding from wet leaves,
Stirring in the cool morning air.

16 June 2004
Koh Kong, Cambodia



Friday, 16 July 2010

2 pm. The rampage of rain. My wooden house on stilts sways at every forceful swish of the wind. In the dark somnolence of sky and earth, the rain acquires a distinct voice of its own, veering to a baleful lamentation, harsh and edgy. And I sit still through all its spectacle.

Just a couple or so of days ago, a storm back home in the Philippines wreaked havoc on lives and infrastructure once again. A long power outage caused inconvenience to my teenage niece as she could not go online to get on with her social life on Facebook; while in the midst of this storm- I found out from my poet friend Jim’s blog, he who has long taken the climes of South Africa- “a woman and child were crushed by a falling tree”, and a man was swept away in the raging torrents of a river.

In all certainty, my folks and countrymen will find themselves more on a periodic run from the monsoon slashers, these typhoons and storms. And the memory of last year’s great deluge in the capital is still fresh and the threats of visitations are warily taken.

When the rain ceases I get on with my life. But its voice never really dies down. It’s lodged somewhere in my mind and shimmers at the edge of my dream.

Koh Kong, Cambodia




Dito sa mumunting sulok ng bundok
Pinakikiramdaman ko ang halos delubyong
Silakbo ng ulan, sa kalaliman ng gabi,
Habang nakabaluktot sa kumot at kahoy na sahig.
Panakanakang hinahabol ng alaala ang naglalahong
Mga tagpo sa kadadaang panaginip.
Ngunit kinakaladkad upang ilibing ng ragasa
Sa lupa nang walang kalaban-laban.
Ang ganitong hampas ng ulan na wari’y ibig
Punitin at wasakin ang lahat ng bagay at buhay
Ay tinatanggap ko na lang nang may lalim
Ng pananampalataya, ipinapapasok sa templo
Ng kapayapaan upang hanapin ang sarili
Niyang paghupa. Samantala, tinititigan ko
Ang kadiliman at malaya kong binabaybay
Ang samutsaring daigdig katulad ng pira-pirasong
Salamin na naglalaman ng liwanag at dilim,
Uniberso at teksto, burak at pag-ibig.
Nagsisimula at magtatapos ayon sa diskurso
Ng natural at spiritwal anumang pagdating, maging
Buntong-hininga naging ulan sa ibang lupain.

Setyembre 20, 2007
Koh Kong, Cambodia


Chow Time

Friday, 04 June 2010

One of my resident geckos was in luck to spot a green beetle crawling near the edge of my executive planner that was on my bed. It devoured the unsuspecting bug with snappy precision after a bit of a stake-out from a wooden post.

Ironically, two books piled on top of each other, Alain De Boton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life and Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save (How To Play Your Part In Ending World Poverty) were in juxtaposition to the extermination scene. Had the poor bug bothered to read what’s on the cover or spine of these books maybe he’d have more moments of fun in the living daylight.

Koh Kong, Cambodia


Freak Storm

Friday, 26 March 2010

In the wee hours of the morning, the rain came back.

I woke from the strong rush of cool wind and the sound of flapping wooden windows; and the rain came no sooner than I had the time to secure the doors and windows of my small wooden house. I stepped into the veranda and there was a weak moonlight that clothed the forest. I got sprayed by the rain, drenching my arms and shorts, and gave me chills in bed.

This rain is a kind of continuation to the sudden thunderstorm from the early evening of yesterday – a respite from high temperature that came in a blitzkrieg manner, just less than a couple of hours after quite an intense staff meeting we had where the subject of extreme heat and lack of rain dominated the discussion. The farmers are having difficulties in growing crops on their rows with all this heat and frustration has been gnawing at their patience.

On the flipside of the issue, one of the senior local staff made an in-your-face counterpoint by raising the seemingly lack of serious effort of the field staff to address the issues of the farmers, that they (the staff) are sleeping on their job- an accusation met by silence but this I speculate is because no one wanted to get into a serious verbal tussle with this lady staff who has a reputation of being vocal and critical. On my part, I found myself the initiator of this debate, egged on the field staff to speak up, bring their varying concerns up on the table so that appropriate remedies can be applied. Oh well, we have been through a lot of this kind of productive arguments and actions that they have long been a pattern of field challenges or a rhythm of life in the village.

But yesterday’s whine against the climate took on a bizarre turn. From a desultory feel of things brought on by the heat of summer, the sudden grumbling across the northern sky coupled with the massing up of dark clouds sent a longed-for answer of bountiful rain to slake the parched fields. However, it was a brief violent storm with lightning and thunder. The flashes of lightning were particularly scary, too strong and random for good measure. The villagers had a fright for sure, cowering in a corner of their house, having known already how deadly one strike can be after a child was mortally struck inside her house a few years back. It looks like we are situated in a lightning zone.

In its wake, the storm left some roofs blown off and trees pulled apart and lying by the road. One of our structures (a meeting/parking place) was toppled down and the staff house roofs were also blown away. Through all this condition, I found once again the uncanny juxtaposition of things that leaves one marveling at how the rhythm of the universe unfolds before our eyes and within the realm of our fears and hopes.

Koh Kong, Cambodia