‘But what is Bongdir?
Is it the rats?’
But we don’t have any rats. Not here—
even Dara can’t find any rats here.
‘Rats, no, rat gondol’
Only lizards: teukei, jinja…
‘Not rat, Janie.’
And Girly never lets a mouse pass…
Not like the first house where
they ran over my feet at night
whilst the cats fought on the tin roof.
‘But I’m scared of Bongdir Ammie-oy.’
So I ask Sivin — again —
‘What is Bongdir? Nor naa?’
And she gives that shrug she gives
when I’m being strange and foreign
when I mispronounce and confuse the language
that Gallically borrowed shrug.
She inserts her culture seamlessy into ours
with strange omissions
of chopsticks and no admonitions
of his pointing feet (those impolite soles)—
just slides the rest in to reside amongst our own
and he runs to pray when the monks pass
and Bongdir lurks
beyond my grasp—
a hidden part of a foreign culture
coiled like a krama around my son’s head
like the scarves twisted
to balance baskets on hawkers’ heads—
but Bongdir weighs heavy on Dan.
He saves his bad behaviour
for Ammie-oy who doesn’t believe in Bongdir.
I ask her again.
‘Sivin… bongdir? Nor naa?’
‘Danny make mistake.’
I start to ask friends, neighbours,
but nobody knows
and Dan’s fear grows and takes control.
I give it to him straight,
I clearly explain the evil Bongdir’s fate:
‘Bongdir s’lahp, s’lahp heuy Danny,
there is no Bongdir, Bongdir is dead!
Ot mean Bongdir—Bongdir s’lahp
k’nyom dtoh salarian, taup mouy, lea heuy!’
Then Sivin laughs, walks Danny away—
you not hear’
I not hear or I’m not here?
But she doesn’t say…
Coming home from school, his legs
kicking free, care free,
dangling from the bike
I sit side-on, my arm around his waist
and we sing
as the moto-dop takes us home,
takes us home to Vin.
And I ask him — ‘where do you think Sivin is?’
I know he knows; we have our routine.
‘She’s on the balcony—’
A glint in his eye
‘Not making your lunch, not waiting for you?’
‘No. Bongdir is eating her feet.’
© Ammie-oy 2010