More from this week’s Featured Poet Michael Pedersen.
You can see Michael’s poem from yesterday here — his interview will be up tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy this piece!
She was a tall bright Sihanoukville noon
Dress hiked up to the pelvis, sun thumping
Down on the commotion: a sandy kid
Who’s pulled an unexploded bomb from a sack
Of spoiled greens. Gleams beastly
Bright as any US import; the throng of the crowd
Like a lit match. Probably a dud, but if it did go off
We all like to think we’d have moved a little quicker.
At whites full of worry the Khmers giggle
With insouciance and awe; must have been a dozen
Smiling faces reflected in its coat, and that’s before
The dust downs or touch ups. We make an exchange
Slap bang in the middle of the fragrant high street
4,000 riel to hold it, but worth every sweating note.
As if nursing a newborn, something stirs
Inside my gut, disturbs the sticky rice
And stomach worms.
You arrive this same day with a bang of a different sort
By Kang Ken airstrip, amidst landing lights and neon fuzz
Grandiose - as only a royal or foreigner could.
Though this is a port city, boats bring you here
Sideways, with nameless infants and trade narcotics;
That way you’re not salting the wounds
Of mother Cambodia.
Narith drops us by piebald mutt in cockerel pen;
It’s easier than saying ‘King Gold Hotel’, for me
Who’s trying to fit in. Though lovely
Even when at your most captious, it’s a short walk
And you just wouldn’t get it. In the same way
You won’t go barefoot or cut through jungle fringes;
In the same way you curse philandering monks
Buying dollar drinks for local ladies.
I tame your pique with trips to Victory
And Serendipity beach; rent us a ‘sunbrellas’
But your thoughts are further off than home
And there’s a growl in my glare that the softness
Of your skin can’t cure. Three weeks of mating
And mutiny and I’ve aged a year. Thrice
Sign your name on the checkout sheet;
Like bluebottle blood the ink turns sticky.
Ten nailless toes of a cab driver
Evoke one last whimper before you fly back
To London, to spring’s unexploded bloom.
I stay here with this silent bomb; me in the east
Hemisphere, you in the West; me an alley cat
Slight sunburn all over; you
With eyes slant.
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