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soft return

August 1, 2013

I have returned,
for a handful of weeks,
to a street I lived on four years ago.
It was 2009, and Duch was in the dock,
and the music was elusive.
I lived without wi-fi in those days. And survived.
All things Phnom Penh were novel,
unknown, mysterious.

The first recognition on arrival was a tuk tuk driver,
who smiled in slight surprise, and waved, and mimed guitar
to show he knew me.
He no doubt remembered carrying equipment up stairs.
I cannot remember if he was my favourite.

All the same children play in the streets,
in playful joy at breakneck speed.
But are they the same children?
They are four years older,
can it be that I am remembering them?
Some could not be four years old themselves,
learning and teaching their ancient games.
I can’t see them from this cave of a balcony,
but I hear them, stereophonic, quadrophonic, Cambophonic,
in the excited, shrieking language of playful children everywhere.

The small shops appear more prosperous,
the buildings that were starting to be built
when I left
are now built. And more besides.
The drag nightclub on the corner was already empty,
then gone,
and now replaced with a jeweller plus tiled forecourt.
The silk shop on the other corner no longer has a café.
Accretions of minor streetworks
adding up to the pregnant present.

Soft return,
four years older,
four years better,
hopefully wiser,
still learning and teaching my ancient games

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