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Saturday

April 17, 2021

if you tell me it’s Saturday
I might not believe you
but I’ll have nothing to refute you with,
no place to stand and to point at the shape of the sky
and insist that it’s Tuesday
or St Steven’s Day

the sun has risen
and I assume it will set
although certainties are
thin on the ground these days

change has been driven underground
for the moment
and is only showing up in accumulations

in times of slumber or uproar
I flee to the familiar
if I had Chandler
I would be reading Chandler
celluloid versions must suffice

slowly adapting to
drastic shift in my hours of business
no more nights, only days

early to bed early to rise
makes Jack a dull boy
so a little inconvenience
keeps things interesting

rationing the good coffee
each morning wondering
when I can replenish the stash;
rationing the beer and vodka
for soon it will perish
and what an experiment that will be

in the meantime
there’s work to do,
so I’ll work
until I don’t feel like it anymore
and go check up on what Philip Marlowe
is getting up to

I’m awake anyway and I still have coffee and
it’s Saturday, after all

take away

April 15, 2021

a stranger new year
than even the last
we wish each other’s families
health and happiness
and spin slowly and hopefully
in our own circles
smaller and smaller

a walk down the gaptoothed
naked emaciated street
bejewelled with signs saying: take away

staff keep vigil outside
just like they always did
but now there is nothing to see
and no one to watch

the inn and saloon is locked off
but the tape used to keep us out
says high voltage cable below

a man I knew
chose this moment to: take away

we cannot gather
and drink to him
gathering will have to wait
but we try our electronic best
and share shards of our impulses
into the webiverse

these moments of quiet
the raising of solitary glasses
and the ceiling’s responses
will have to suffice

Limitations

April 11, 2021

a poet
built for wistfulness  

were I a novelist  
my arcs would be more fully realised
and the scenes would hold more drama  
and my character would be finer drawn  

but I’m a poet
built for wistfulness and longing  

were I a screenwriter  
my wisecracks and epigrams  
would be pithy and salty  
my vistas would be wider
and my themes clearer

but I’m a poet
built for wistfulness and longing  
and patience

were I a memoirist  
my anecdotes would sizzle and sparkle  
and my history would be more complex and vital

but I’m a poet
built for wistfulness and longing  
and patience and questions  

were I a journalist
my stories would seethe
with adventure and daring
and bristle with detail

but I’m a poet
built for wistfulness and longing
and patience and questions
and witness

the beat goes on

April 8, 2021

my generation it seems has much nomaded
across place and time
we seem to have moved farther and wider
seeking our spot
before and since

and characters from previous episodes
show up unbidden in the thoughtscape;
the collective memory
massively fragmented
in the absence of any collective

but then there is the curse of each generation:
for sure it was always thus

we sit with handfuls of untidied ends –
we don’t know the further destiny of
the minor characters who passed through our lives
here or there or the many wherevers
and sometimes not even the intergalactic interwebs can find them
should we find overextended moments to indulge in such

and it’s not like we want to say hi
we just want to take a peep through historic clouds
and see how happy or otherwise they appear
through warm, unshuttered windows
that we can return to our own shutters
and run them once again through the thoughtscape
and let the stories tell themselves

so we beat on, boats against the current,
borne back ceaselessly into the past

a nod of thanks

March 26, 2021

a nod of thanks
to our younger selves
who got us here
somehow
their decisions led the way
so that we can sit here and trace the contours
of the maps that they could not see
and who picked up some of the tools
that fell in their path
and abandoned others
like us
they stood on the cliff edge
every day
held their breath and closed their eyes and

jumped

a nod of thanks
to our younger selves
who got us here
somehow
making the calls
and choosing the timing
as best they could
so that now we can sit here
and see the trajectory of the bullets that were dodged
and that were not
and intermittently forgive our younger selves
for rushes of youthful blood to various

                                                                                                                        anatomies

a nod of thanks
to our younger selves
who got us here
somehow
who bravely struggled
from time to time
and also cravenly hid
when it was felt necessary
because the relationship between discretion and valour
is hard-learned
now we think we know
why we didn’t pick up the phone
and why we turned left
and why we opened the door
but our sight is only

                                                                                                                        hind

a nod of thanks
to our younger selves
who got us here
somehow
and a pat on the back
to ourselves
because we kid ourselves
we’ve got it figured out

now

Shutdown cubism with Florence Nightgale

March 23, 2021

available now – Many Ways: Phnom Penh poems 2011 – 2021

March 16, 2021
Contact me directly for your copy. pdf version also available for those outside Cambodia.

late night thoughts over a drink or two outside Garage Bar

March 11, 2021

104 was closed down tonight
I’d not noticed before that there are no street lights
once the bars turned off their signs it’s mighty dark

I watched from my familiar balcony
as a minibus of masked uniforms turned the corner
ahead of a sit-in-the-back truck of soldiers,
who quickly deployed along the street brandishing
finger-on-the-trigger dangerous looking weapons
(what do I know?)
that would be more alarming had I not observed
the gendarmerie in France

there was a deal of rushing about
and vehicles leaving and
so the lights went out,
except the lighting provided for the photojournalists who followed
in rambling lockstep
to take the happy snaps of their dubious profession

one bar was targeted, it seems, and who knows why
the street was generally and variously reminded
that there’s a pandemic going on
there is little to complain of

the staff urged me not to leave
wary of police and fines
but here I am outside Garage Bar while inside
old hands hold forth on miscellaneous history narratives
            but you see
            and that’s because
            actually, what’s interesting

the garbage truck passes
denoting some kind of civic progress
is it only two years since the last great garbage crisis
or longer perhaps?
or shorter? 

the neighbourhood tuk tuk driver
calls out my street name
old school, no GPS
maybe tonight I’ll luxuriate in a vehicle too large
rather than search for a motodop

in the streets that are my personal urban centre
almost every block evokes a memory
a thought
an anecdote
that makes me sound like one of the old hands
a way for me to relive the histories through the oral tradition
of telling

sometimes I’ve got to run away I’ve got to get away
declares Gloria Jones
over the next round of bar declarations about
the world and everything beyond

unexpectedly a jungle bird is intermittently
cawing through the neon bitumen of the night
five caws
three minutes
five caws

I cannot lose my joy in the curved buildings
corner by corner through
my personal urban centre,
any more than I can lose the excitement of
Chuck Berry gems
that are now layering o’er the slowing old hands

closing time is approaching and
the barangs are thinning out
the staff break out their laughter,
making it harder to leaveand yet that is why I must

tuk tuk!

coming soon – many ways: Phnom Penh poems 2011-2021

March 5, 2021

unless we look

March 1, 2021

at the intersection of the here-and-now
and the was-and-then
a sky-high keening sound, pale blue,
like a picture of a passage of time
ripples as a scenic backdrop to
the daily flow of tides and liquids
that pass for food, shelter, companionship

thinking of those stillborn conversations that
recommend defenestration
it’s not their fault that they are ignorant
and their assumptions are absurd

the again-approach of dates
that will fall onto the table as if
it’s a game of solitaire
with an unshuffled deck
they accumulate with age, of course,
and with choices

the physical map of bumps and troughs
shows what we’ve been through
and what we’re carrying

some themes and topics will always return
even in the background, like a breeze or a tune
that barely registers
unless we are paying attention
unless we are noticing
unless we look
(you dirty chook)