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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)

Living forwards, understanding backwards

February 28, 2021

It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard, Journals IV A 164 (1843) 

all the moving parts on the street today
seem colour-coded
as if chosen deliberately
to identify and contrast with the surroundings

am I glimpsing an urge to order, to structure?
perhaps I will catch this window
perhaps it will evade me again
perhaps I will go for a walk instead

many days I am a mystery to myself
what was there before it was gone?
it’s been so long

in the semidarkness/semilight twilight
I am adding items to the growing list of
all that I don’t need

all those old blues singers
were once callow, callow youths
and we late blooming black sheep
somehow learn to adjust and accept

accidental colour-matching
notwithstanding
I approach the pending anniversaries
with full heart
and breath of new songs

close all the shops and sit in the shade

February 11, 2021

the acrid burning of hell money
mingles with the pouring of beer
the snapping of playing cards
the imploring singers deep in
plaintive Cambodian tunes

bring on the sad songs
and gather
and eat
and remember the dead
and pour the beer
and snap the cards
and implore
and sing
and welcome
the ox