The Sounds of Phnom Penh

noom-bpung

Noom-bpung man


 
The Sounds of Phnom Penh
 

The scrootching brooms the
universal alarm,
followed by the bread man’s call.

Early morning and late afternoon
the singing tones greets us—
noom-bpung, noom-bpung
drift through open windows raising
a scuttle of feet, a swish of doors
rustling wrappings peeled back from an enormous basket
that teeters on the bicycle rack.

The voices and sounds of a waking city:
school children chanting—
Chinese lessons
drift and hang in the early morning air
outside un-shuttered class rooms;
babies mewling, mothers scolding,
beating of mats and shaking of sheets;
monks chant and hawkers hit the streets,
motos rev to customers’ calls and the clattering
open and close of metal gates.

Ice cream man cycles down the street
hand bell ringing out, a
blast of music escaping from a bright tangle of wires that
coil around the rear of his bicycle. I hear the excited
chatter of children then the suck
and metal slide as tubular ice creams
are slid from the steel barrel.

A high pitched scream of sound
emerges from a battered wooden box
accompanied by the tinkle of keys and
the clanking of cans
as the key cutter negotiates
the pitted road on his jangling, clanking bicycle.

By early evening the cicadas
are deafening—
drowning out all thoughts,
blanketing me, muffling my home,
with their chirping shrill vibrations—
obliterating all else,
even the television’s drone.

Later,
karaoke pierces the night
barely distinguishable from
the sporadically howling dogs—
that discordant chorus that tracks around the city
punctuated by squalling cat spats.

As peace settles in with the deeper dark,
the noodle man clacks his rhythmic call on sticks,
his creaking trolley jerked along
river bed roads destroyed by the wet—
metal and glass grinding dolefully, sticks
beating in the dusk,
unseen, he serenades the night.

 
© Ammie-oy 2010
 

Cambodian Buddhist monks

Cambodian Buddhist monks

Pong tea khon (fertilized duck eggs)

Street trade

 

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