Phnom Penh, One Month

This is a poem I wrote after our first month in Phnom Penh. It was published to the Storehouse photo-story website, and the original post can be found here.

This is the heat
of waking in the morning
to the fan blowing tepid air across my back
while the sweat-stuck sheet clings to my chest.
This is the rumble of the heavy iron gate
each day as we leave the house
surrounded by old plastic bags and stray dogs and the gazes of children.
This is the taste of coffee, sitting in the car,
or the bite of dust
and the stink of exhaust and sulfur and shit and stagnant water,
and the emphysemic growl of the tuk-tuk.
This is children shouting at my daughter’s gated school.
This is people chattering outside my understanding,
and pointing and laughing
and nodding and smiling.
This is the pungent odour of fish sauce,
the comforting smell of French-fries,
the sweetness of mangoes, growing cloying
as the season
and lingers.
This is the lung-rattling roar, every quarter to midnight,
of an Air-Korea 767.
This is not knowing landmarks in a place
where they can’t read maps.

I was looking for a narrative
but I can’t find it
if it is
here at all.
This is just a
collection of
and sensations.

This is probably to be expected.


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