songkhan, siem reap river*

inner harbor, macau ©papa osmubal

inner harbor, macau ©papa osmubal

songkhan, siem reap river*
adam aitken

On the banks of the river
we would be wet, if the water ran,
and the children could afford a bucket.
Even the frisky cows know
staying dry is staying alive.
Here, cows know more about
road safety
than townsfolk selling photocopied
books on genocide.
The tour guides work tirelessly
“making English work for them”
on a hill of wild mint bush.
As for fires and ash, even that’s preserved
and fish are best when smoked.

So much to celebrate, and lives are short.
Chasing snakes or frogs
harvesting morning glory
in the Raffles hotel gardens,
what I wish for is a place
to park my bike, a table
to write on, of teak,
some roses, a waterfall, a quiet
bench on the river, a place to read
and imagine the parents I never knew.
Something, maybe my soul, floats
like Hyacinth downstream,
then netted, collected for feed,
or caught, like a sandal that
lost its foot, snagged in an outburst
of pandanus.

* This is a reworking of one of Michelle Cahill’s poems. (– Adam Aitken)


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