Here’s the “epic” poem I read at the FCC Mansion for OCF 2014

To the souls of Phnom Penh,

My name is Greg Bem and I am not here today to speak of myself.

I am here to speak of a world spinning calmly, careening full, exploding and extinguishing doubly.

Phnom Penh revving its engine, Phnom Penh, city with a language of day and night.

A language seen barreling between buildings.

Dancing this city is alive with movement.

I come to you today to speak of the city’s edges bursting and burning with movement.

I have not been in this city long but I see the buildings quiver and vibrate.

I see before dawn before labor the pants squeeze skin muscle fat.

The brush of the curtains from the breeze as doors open and close.

Boulevards twisting passing like the breaths of marathon runners.

The movement of Phnom Penh golden and green in life, purple in change.

Sun bubbling up over phsar after phsar, sellers prepping winks and wares.

Illuminated Phnom Penh the sun uncovered we feel our names on our skin.

The words these names jumping off the page off the street through jade vision.

I am here to speak but also to hear.

Snoring within a lone kromah slung there is the cradling of a baby just born.

Hiding and bathing the travel of laughter of children scrubbing through the convergence of a river.

While nearby a mother sweeps the floor darts her eyes at daily tasks looming in line.

A father on his moto darting eyes at the prospect of the dreams of a customer.

The ox carts with wheels make soft little spattered flashes of noise in the morning and the evening.

The Chmah screaming in the agony of hunger.

Telephones ringing in the distance.

Brush of floors swept of their crumbs. Windows scraped open.

Waves of packs of construction site dogs letting out screaming howls and lingering like wolves.

The slick, sloppy lick of fingers like familiar families gobbling chicken in unison.

Groan of the drains unchained and flowing freely for what was clogged now is pressured, unclogged again.

I am here to observe but also smell

The canal a renewed monster as Tuol Tom Pung sits erupting.

Moods of movements blanketed by exhaust.

The plastic scent rising as setting lanterns light.

Televisions screening over heaps of gutters.

I sing of the poverty and Phnom Penh’s labrynthian romances.

Of a city fortified corroded constructed and dim and erected.

Towers to the sky by the eyes of foreign empires! Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam.

The zap of a taser or some shocking shield bashing from some handsome Hun Sen sailor.

We are all drunk on power!

Clashes with the voices of the strangers!

The gravities of situations like svay hanging like hand grenades from their trees.

This city our city Phnom Penh spitting and spurning through masses of festive or arrested faces

This city our city I sing of, dabbled with the spots of fresh and dried and fried meat!

Fabric gloves those workers wear to keep the sun from browning the skin . . .

We ended up here the gasoline driving us the carts being directed by oxen

Phnom Penh the goods and the merchandise alleviate the stricken or burden those whose hands groan and have grown uneven

A thousand dead chickens strapped down to the roof of minivans screeching across sky bridges

A hundred waking swine staring upward their last moments in the sky.

Motorized carts in derbies whirling and colliding in engorged proportions

The hundreds of thousands of individuals walking through our city at any given moment each with shoes or without feet still getting dirty.

The lone seller at the flip flop shop listening to the radio and watching the ghost films.

Photographers and photocopiers and monopolies of frenzied fun as the children run along the chopped up forgotten sidewalk.

Human hands pressing medallions and garments like brands.

In their streets in their markets in their homes in their parks in their alleyways and kitchens and storefronts and parlors are family members and the isolated questioning future.

There is movement. The exact moment there is movement.

Electric lines dangling in the wind the dust and its vortices pushing and coating tendrils without and within claiming and ecstatic they hang like black snakes a wrangled dangle.

Purses snatched. Bicycles stolen. The hands they lead us and beckon. Girly bars. Pedophiles gnawing on thumbs in the twilight. Gangsters and their hair erupted in flame screaming by on a Scoopy or some other moto Dream.

Dreams of preservation. Dried fish. Dried squid. Dreams of cuisine. A nod for prahok. The quail and its broiled eggs. The snail and its fried shells. The curry and the noodles and the raw brain sitting on the butcher’s block. The monuments of rice.

Through movement singers sing and writers write, the poets in their corners the fingers moving from pen to paper from screen to file.

Plastic face worn, the cheap Nokia phone clutched by a tuk tuk driver’s trembling hand.

Samsung knockoffs held close to the breast of the zombies of Facebook.

Starbucks t-shirts cleaned and pressed making a perfect and prized possession.

An Angry Birds ball cap donned then removed the sweat pouring to a stream along a food cart’s winding path . . .

The rat dead in the middle of the street, crushed by tires or choked by the grit of a grain of gravel.

Phnom Penh the scuttle of the mice under tables and the chee-chuh on the walls.

The klah on the side of sra bier tipped up and guzzled down, so much liquid to and through the throat.

The toke of smoking souls burning embers their eyes illuminating when there are no streetlights.

Phnom Penh. From the buzzing of your motos to the coos of your cars.

The SUVs housing the elite Lexuses and Landcruisers murderous titan warpaths brushing off bike riders like peasants.

The tightly stretched clasps keeping the facemask strapped behind the ears.

Phnom Penh. Cracking images of gears spitting and trimming a landscape of beautiful marble, thick and beautiful wood.

The darkest corners where the roaches scamper and lay their eggs.

The KTV stations on all horizons lighting up light waves bouncing.

Students wearing boots that carry the dust for kilometers.

Boats scuttle by their own brightness causing vibrations along the water of the river.

The wind collapsing each wooden house, each river shack lost amongst its stilts and then pushed back up again.

In every direction we find fuel to increase the joys and the sorrows of the limits and infinites of transience.

All intangibles a chorus of images and ideas strung around the neck.

Phnom Penh. This is an inventory and it’s made up of you.


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