Playing with Form: Abecedarian

This is really a variation on the form as a true abecedarian would start each line with a word beginning with the requisite letter as opposed to the ‘A is for…’ format I’ve followed here.
Alphabet Rhymes
A is for Ammie a mammy a maid
B is for baby protected by jade
C is the cat who’s asleep in the sun
D is for durian ice cream, yum yum
E is the elephant at Wat Phnom
F is the fun we have playing at home
G is the garden with sand pit we made
H is the hammock that swings in the shade
I am at peace here but this cannot last
J is for junior growing up fast
K is for kindy, left with a sigh
L is lea heuy and a tearful goodbye
M for green mango served with red chilli
N is for nonsense verse, funny but silly
O is for O’Russey shopping and bargains, then
Peking Canteen serving finest dumplings
Q is the quails eggs in packets of seven
R is for rice, a steamed bowl of heaven
S for the sunset seen up at the lake
T is the tuk-tuk the family take
U are the light and the love of my life
V is the violence that causes such strife
W for wat, for widow and woe
X is the place to which I cannot go
Y is the question that runs through my head
Z is the end; endless sleep and you’re dead.

More Information

© Ammie-oy 2010



As I tidied up, picked up the wire
I felt the buzz—heard the buzz—felt the buzz.
Audible hum,
through the wire—to my hand—through my thumb.
Teeth clench—feet rooted—eyes wide—hands hold.
Cannot release.
Mind’s eye sees him,
peaceful, sleeping, shock of blonde hair
fluffed by whirring fan and floating in my vision.
Who will find him?
Hearing myself—urgh-urgh-urgh,
pulsing electricity
across my heart
through my thumb

(Who will come?)

squeezing a drooling hum
out of me.
Who will care for him
if I am gone?

Wire jumps—heart thumps—hand drops—
Drilling, gurgling urgh changes to a gasped
and I stumble—
into the wall, wobble
into his room
to stare at him,
holding my burnt thumb to my heart.

© Ammie-oy 2010


‘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.’

Always Bongdir.
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—

‘No Bongdir
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.’

About this poem

© Ammie-oy 2010

Playing with Form: Listing Poem

Dan’s Days
“Now my days are Dan days…”

You were born in York, ushered into a watery world on a wet, wet night, swimming limp and grey, to lie exhausted on me with an Apgar of three.
You were taken for oxygen and returned pink and screaming but calmed in my arms, cradled whilst I counted fingers and inspected toes, amazed at tiny new you.
You rested: seventeen hours sleeping sound; midwives woke me to tempt you, poor tired you; urged me to feed you and frowned.
You lived in Bubwith — your first home — hemmed in by rising water, stranded with family on high ground.
You were wrapped snug in freshly stitched blankets as new as you; blankets already rifled by burglars’ fingers as you made your way into this stormy world.
You took your first walks in the pram and watched a bride climb into a snorkelled army truck to be taken to her wedding — the only vehicle to enter or leave in over a week.
You took walks to see the slowly shrinking Derwent; watched the waters recede and saw the bridge slowly emerge from the flood.
You took your first trip to Selby when the road returned – wet and stained with earth, surrounded by still glittering fields and you saw pigs loaded onto pick-ups, piled high, dead and bloated with the water.
You moved house when you were three months old, took up residence in a sleepy Scottish village, propped in a wing chair by the coal fire, dozing through days like an old man.
You started to cruise the furniture in Crossmichael – missed out crawling; prambled along village and farm lanes, watching as trucks were piled with the corpses of sheep, victims of foot and mouth; once again cut off, this time by a tide of disinfectant.
You acquired a love of books, devoured all you could lay your hands on – grey mush peppering the floor about you as you sat drooling and pompous, propped by cushions.
You moved house again and learnt to crawl in Cilcain; forgot cruising and became enamoured with the floor; stared at it all day; ate Welsh muck and heard ‘ych y fi’.
You took your first flight with Malaysia Airlines, cooed at by friendly stewards and smiling passengers as you crawled after an ice cube up and down the aisle until it melted away from your grasp; you barely slept, never wept.
You found your feet in Phnom Penh in our little flat behind the palace, laughing as you managed three quick steps across the chequered floor and fell into my arms.
You rode your first motorbike in Phnom Penh, loved the rush of wind and the moto-dops’ teasing; learnt how to hail a moto by the time you could talk.
You found your words in Phnom Penh; found them in two languages easy as one, two, three, mouy, bpai, bpi?
You returned to Wales, we returned to family and you traded K’mai for Cymraeg, un, dau, tri…
You are again cut off by water but tall bridges suspend the isolation of the winking Straits; shiny sandbanks emerge at low tide and you roam in a wild garden with trees to climb and dens to be made – this is boy country…

About this Poem

© Ammie-oy 2010

Time Out

At nine in the morning,
I settled myself down, on a
Dan’s spending the day
with Serinya kind of day
this unrequested, unexpected
freedom kind of day…
I settled down in my evening spot,
my after Dan’s gone to bed spot—
end of the day spot.
And then I knew I wanted this
to be a me day. Since
the day Dan was born day
there hadn’t been a me day,
but I’m not entirely sure
what to do with a me day anymore.
Once they’d been abundant—
obliterated all other days.
Though they were me and Lee days
now my days are Dan days.
Dan days, work days, playing the game days,
playing the game and towing the line days…
Sitting on the balcony, rocking:
the morning light already bleaching the day,
rocking in the chair, not a rocking chair
no rockers on this chair
just a wonky kind of leg chair,
two legs cut too short chair,
rocking anyway chair.
Colonial creamy yellow
colouring the wall there
filling up my vision as I stare from the chair there
fiddling with a rizla in my wonky legged chair.
The me kind of day becomes hazy in a way
as I roll the paper neatly
and burn the end away
inhale the smoke deeply
watch the ash drift away.


More about this poem
This poem was written from personal experience but conceived with the idea of a specific voice in mind. Here a mother has an unexpected day of freedom: no child, no work. I tried to use the repetition to show how her mind is overworking, thinking about how she should spend the day but also to reflect being stuck in the world of children and motherhood with the repetition reminiscent of that in children’s books.
© Ammie-oy 2010