Going to Work (Triolet Re-structured)

I set out for school today but a man was in my way,
dead and bloating in the sun, dredged in the dust of the road—
well seasoned for death and fully tenderized by the fray.
I set out for school today but a man was in my way.
He lay dead in the street, causing my delay—
surrounded by a crowd staring bug-eyed like toads.
I set out for school today but a man was in my way,
dead and bloating in the sun; tossed in the dust of the road.


© Ammie-oy 2010


Playing with Form: Triolet (2)

On My Way to Work

I set out for school today but a man was in my way,
dead and bloating in the sun, dredged in the dust of the road—
well seasoned for death and fully tenderized by the fray.
I set out for school today but a man was in my way.
He was lying in the street gazing sightless to the sky,
a crowd gathered round him, buzzing like flies.
I set out for school today but a man was in my way,
dead and bloating in the sun; tossed in the dust of the road.


© Ammie-oy 2010

The Art of Riding Side-Saddle

The Spill

As we take the corner
delayed reaction—
my shout carries
into the dozing lunchtime air
and mingles with the incense from Wat Lanka.
Back curves,
throwing my weight forward—
arms reaching, flailing
legs kick skyward

—and down,

find the ground again, as my
hand hits dirt
and the motorbike lies in the dust
but I’m lurching upright
to his apology,
his sheepish grin
and his arms that strained
as he doubled over the handlebars,
gasp punched from him,
grasp pulled from him,
lose the bike and
reach to me.


More about this poem
Another Phnom Penh poem about transport. This relates a minor accident when riding side-saddle on a moto (motorbike taxi). This was near Wat Lanka, one of Phnom Penh’s five original Pagodas which apparently dates back to the fifteenth century. It was during siesta time so the streets were very quiet and neither of us were hurt. Here’s a great picture of a moto-dop (motorbike taxi driver) sleeping during siesta time at Wat Lanka.
© Ammie-oy 2010

First Time at Kai Tak

The smell invades the cabin
greets us… first taste of Hong Kong.
Huge mountain—filling my vision,
impossibly close;
raising the hairs down my spine.
Passive indifference of fourteen hours exhaustion
seeping out of me,
replaced with explosive nervousness.
Stomach lurches sideways as we bank
affording a view into passing homes.
Atmosphere changing:
first timer stress, old hand bluff,
yearning for home—
or solid ground;
anticipation of a dog tired crew.
An almost tangible tingle ripples
through the cabin—
excited murmurs, engine roar,
nothing distinct, vague essence—
thrill and fear.
Then again,
looking into someone else’s life;
twisting and banking through high rise,
crazy descent
intended for birds, not man.
Rancid smell rising again, seeping
through the plane, the dampness of the typhoon,
recent and returning. Dank, rotten
and in conflict with the buzzing metropolis
stretched out in sprawling urban chaos below.
The rain is coming now, hurling itself at the
toy-like window, another obstacle
to my safe arrival.
Relief as we finally land and I look out,
see sea,
only sea,
and rain down the window like streamers.

© Ammie-oy 2010

Walking West to Field

It’s soft underfoot,
the untrodden spring of the grassy bank
yielding and the air smells
sweet with mingling scents of rain,
grass, hay and earth.
The dark is drawing in—blending
all the greys together,
blurring the defining lines
and we’re faceless, blind.
But not alone. No sight—
only sounds.
The wind talking, trees sighing, a vixen’s bark
and a miles distant train.
A purring car slows to take the bend,
floods us with light,
fleeting greens—too bright, deafening roar
then deeper dark
and the disturbed whispering of roadside grasses.

© Ammie-oy 2010

Visiting Battambang’s Killing Fields

After wake up call of scrootching brooms
sweeping out the night,
brushing the streets clean for a new day to begin,
in the cool dawn morning
through the chattering, honking town
the market, even now, bustles.
Gap-toothed women barter for the lucky first sale
and sleepy children
pulled from bed to hammock
swing lazy in the still cool air,
watch parents place produce
in neat piles on spread leaves.
Where the pick up trucks rev engines,
waiting till they’re full
and the taxis tout for business
as bike cabs buzz for custom,
like flies around the garbage mounds
piled high at intersections
letting off their odour as the sun gathers its heat,
the monks pass, collecting alms.
On tarmac roads to dirt and dust,
washed out faded brown,
white-laced with stones that fill the holes,
the toil of hands grown rough with rock
and reaching,
the checked kramas shield weathered skin,
sun-cracked lips
cry som, m’ruy loi:
beggars fix the road.
As the sun climbs through the sky
cranking up the heat,
the driver fumbles, passengers follow suit, and
green notes flutter through the cracks of jammed
windows floating in an airless haze,
grasped by desperate hands.
The dust-beaten van moves ever onward, through
the landscape,
along the living river,
by fields of emerald green—
announced by warning signs
the brightest red,
the red of blood, red of danger with
bones white as those bleached by killing fields’ sun
past daily life, trips to town,
moving in a semi cocooned world past
motorbikes laden with ducks, slung
upside down, tied feet,
honking, honking all the way— to market, to slaughter,
heads crane away from the speeding road
past pigs rolled in baskets, strapped
across the back rack,
quiet now, bellies full with marijuana—
avoids the fight and
rolled up tight alleviates the load
onwards, past naked children playing by
the roadside, gawping shameless at the van, following,
running, barang, barang
causing elders’ heads to twist in hammocks swinging
low in the shade of the stilted houses,
mothers turn from harvest, arms raised
rice stalks clasped high in strong sinewy hands.
Parting company now with the river and the
fertile rice bowl,
sun reaching ever higher,
the road begins to climb and
gravel and stone turn green in the distance—
rise out of the ground.
The rattling van still follows the bumping, winding road
as it narrows,
weaves past children playing on a water buffalo and
a one legged man who cycles,
rhythmically turning the pedal,
letting the motion bring it round, lone leg pushing down:
a pretty girl perched side-saddle on the seated rack,
demure, legs lightly crossed, oblivious to the heat.
Finally, in a small village,
mountain looming close
the van pulls up on a patch of grass,
pulls up amongst a crowd of children all
pushing forward seizing chances
you want guide? – I guide you – I take you Killing Field
and now on foot,
led on past fields, more signs
and rusting guns
up a narrow track, slowing as the children run
ahead, back again, urge the tourists on,
on to skulls piled high on a jumble of bones,
the children frog hopping—
arms under knees then clasped behind necks
sprawling, laughing on the floor
you make picture, make picture
against the bony backdrop
sightless eyes cast over paddies and far off Thailand
while we stand and gaze up as the sun tumbles
through that killing hole—
tumbles and falls to rock below
just as people did, a short time ago.

About this poem

© Ammie-oy 2010

Going Home

It’s six a.m. and the brightness hurts
as I step from dim light
to the street
and the jitters start to creep as I
negotiate the moto-fare home.

Lee trusts my judgment;
we both climb on…
knees knocking, legs swinging
and we’re singing
at six in the morning
making our way home.
down the two minute stretch of dual carriageway,
home, down Yugoslavie—
adjoins two fourteen but we’re heading the other way—
heading out to dirt roads and dust, potholes
and pigs in the front yard,
quiet streets where people head to market
and the day is waking up.
Home to barking dogs and
stray gun shots, the whirring fan
and strawberry ice pops. Home
at last to sleep.


More about this poem
Another poem about short journeys and connections to a place. Home at this point was Boeung Keng Kang III in Phnom Penh, not far from Tuol Sleng. In the late nineties it wasn’t unusual to hear random gunshots at night.
A ‘moto’ is a motorcycle taxi.
The picture is taken from the ‘home’ of this poem and shows moto-dops waiting for custom under the shelter of trees on the corner of Ph 143 and Ph 350 in Phnom Penh.
© Ammie-oy 2010