next year

they’re planning a trip
for sometime next year
to the only place mom
ever wants to “vacation”
thought that might change after
ma died a few years ago
but i was wrong

i’ve been three times
every three years since ’03
it’s been almost four
since the last trip
when i made sure
to get lots of pictures
and videos of ma

i have a clip of her
saying “hello” and “okay”
in english and complaining
in khmer about how
her mouth isn’t used to
making such strange sounds

i don’t know if i want to
go this time and visit
the chedey i’ve only seen
in pictures to say goodbye

maybe i’d rather rewatch
the video of the two of us
exchanging “hello”s

shadow theater

the morning sun attempts
to shine through closed curtains
around silhouettes of banana leaves
their sharp shadows dancing
to the will of a restless wind

there is still a small stack
of shadow puppets in my closet
acquired on my last trip to cambodia
the cast of characters from the reamker
preah ream, neang sita, hanuman, and reap
each a foot tall creation of tanned leather
intricately cut and perforated with
knotted joints connecting delicate limbs
controlled by long bamboo sticks

made and waiting to be placed
between flame and white curtain
to act out a story through flicks
and tilts and swoops and stillness
a tale based on a poem
inspiring plays and dances and
carvings on ancient temple walls

an epic thousands of years old
but still younger than the one
playing on my curtains this morn