A Draft Poem called #Battambang

In the blight of the streets of Battambang

where we lifted legs each moment heavier

where the emptiest shadows followed us

and shadows pretended sipping dripless fountains

where there were the outlines of our bodies

impressed upon the walls we went to see

(and the walls were long discarded:

train station, marketplace, shopping mall)

we never stopped for more than five minutes.

 

There were no storms. There was no thunder.

And there was no malaria. No secret strain.

No landmines. No vagabonds. No whores.

 

Though Sopheap sold his hand to us that night,

a dead hand he used to point out fixtures

liminal under the vague stretchmarks of moonlight

causing us to ask so many questions, like:

how could you walk for ten days from Poipet,

are you really trying to get to Phnom Penh,

do you really live down on the river?

 

There was no calling out from distant degrees of horizon.

No heavenly revelry:

Come capture my destruction with your lens.

Come document, tourists, lossless of the West.

 

Maybe we can’t and maybe we can be seen. Maybe we are secret.

No phones and so no selfies. Cameras shackled and snuck.

There was no one calling our names.

Ghosts. Potent land of the voiceless and bodiless.

Secret people in secret spaces filled with wonder.

A wonder without typing. Without clicking.

No laptops. No tablets. No digital strata.

We could not know and therefore we fizzled.

 

Blighted holiday streets with broken parks pinched us as funnels of heat.

The occasional whistling motorbike and its noise a conduit

(rear wheel hidden under a wooden platform:

at least fifty dead or dying chicken bodies)

nearly clipping our shoulders before the sun ceased.

 

After the blind monk finally stopped talking in his mysterious,

and Stephanie showed up from her slow crawl through Pursat,

the hollow vacuum had pinned us next to crocodiles.

In the empty spaces between their teeth,

new holidays were erupting every minute: silent and dangerous.

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