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

detour

bokor national park has
a resort at its summit now
a casino, restaurant and
four-hundred-room hotel
located at the end of a paved road
that takes less than an hour to travel
from entrance to mountain plateau
and is traversed twice daily by buses
from both phnom penh
and kampong saom

ten years ago
the only shelter
were tents brought by campers
or bunk beds in a
dilapidated rangers station
the only food
cup noodles sold by those rangers
to young travelers naive enough
to venture into the wilds with only
oranges, candy, and pringles
and the drive up
took two hours
on a road returned to dirt and gravel
where the frequent stops
to navigate around fallen trees or
to take photos of colorful flowers or
to gather giant seed pods
were just as memorable
as the views from the top
of low lying clouds
verdant valleys
and clear coastlines

i’m glad we went there
on my cousin’s whim
a car full of teens
and twenty-somethings
drawn by rumors
of an active casino
that turned out to be
a haunting rust and black stained
shell of a building
standing in a sea of knee-high grass
and by promises
of local delicacies
that ended up being served
after a three minute wait
in paper cups, but with a view
of the gulf of thailand

i’m glad i went there expecting
the amenities of a resort
but left, having experienced
the stark beauty of land
reclaimed by nature

interwoven

this hot weather is making me lethargic
and nostalgic for a hand knit hammock
suspended between two wooden posts
propping up the corrugated tin roof
that kept the sun out of my eyes
while i focused on the crowns
of a distant trio of coconut palms
before snapping a photograph
that will always evoke memories of
intermittent warm dusty breezes
weeks in sweat drenched t-shirts
bucket showers of cool sticky well water
and the image of my grandmother
in socks, sarong, knit sweater, and beanie
snacking on green grapes while lounging
on an identical hammock three feet away

stolen kiss

I have a souvenir
from my first trip
to Cambodia
that I carry with me
everywhere I go

it is roughly
the size and shape and shine
of a half dollar coin
polished by friction
over the years
initially a deep burnt
purplish-brown
the color has since
faded to a mottling
of creams and tans

it was a gift from
my cousin’s moto
from its exhaust pipe to
the base of my right calf
a searing kiss
the likes of which
I’ve yet to (want to)
experience again