Playing with Form: Rondeau

The Funeral Band
Leave it till it falls off they said.
A fragile fibre holds the thread
shows our lives twisted together,
fraying wisps attached forever—
twisting strands: symbol of the dead—
binds us together as though wed,
thin white cotton heavy as lead
holds me fast this funeral tether.
Till it falls off.
Through mourning days and grief I’m led
a fractured world inside my head
taunted by what if he never…
stumbling through but cannot sever—
this binding bracelet; his life’s thread…
till it falls off.

Further Information

© Ammie-oy 2010



Let me shed this skin before
we come together. It is mere protection
from past pains, to be sloughed
with your coming.
The very air around you brings
a prickle of heat to the body, alights,
and wakes the sleeping soul within whose
muffled weeping stills, flutters and
cracks the armour with a sigh.
Let me now emerge, the true image
of self, breaking into myself, breaking
out of myself—
becoming myself.
With you, once again I am me.

© Ammie-oy 2010

Haad Tien

I left her there; on the beach
in the wet sand—
the real me, happy and free.
I couldn’t bring her home,
the real me.
She lives in her body with ease:
lean and free.
She’s the golden colour of peanuts,
skin salted by the sea, buffed with the grains,
hair tangled by gusts—
weather wild as she, feral and free.
Bare feet on storm whipped sand,
rocks scoured black with rain,
slicked over, tested by her foot—
strong toes curl, grip; she jumps
clean to the next beach.
She loiters briefly at Phi’s,
the first welcome, the first stop off rocks and earth,
out of trees and into light, back to sand.
On to Bpu’s welcome; Khun Yaai cooking omelette.
She walks back by dark, only moonlight
and her lover’s arms to guide her.
Wind swirls, ocean beats grainy shore
and the new jetty—gone,
and with it all fear of departure.
She lies in his arms
and the wind blows through.
The storm stirs the ocean to foam and five foot swells
and the spray joins the rain and sea
and keeps her there, keeps her from me.
I couldn’t bring her home,
the real me.
I could only leave her there,
living wild by jungle and sea—
the real me, happy and free.


© Ammie-oy 2010

The Ties that Bind Us

Leave it till it falls off they said —
a fragile wisp of cotton —
the threads of your life that
wind us together,
breaking, fraying,
wrapping around me, not falling away.
Your life, tied to mine so briefly.
Holding on, binding me,
reminding me
still —
a fragile wisp of cotton
never breaking.
Till it falls off they said.
Binding ties,
never broken,
wispy as web, ephemeral, eternal:
a fragile wisp of cotton enslaves me.
Till it falls off they said,
but you refuse to let me go.


More about this poem
This poem relates to the practice of tying white cotton around the wrists of mourners as part of a Cambodian Buddhist funeral ceremony and how these threads become the last tangible sign, and constant reminder, of the life now gone and symbolise bonds that cannot be broken by death.
The title is not an original phrase and this is supposed to help convey how the person feels so alone, as though this has never happened to anyone before and yet knows at the same time that most people go through this.
© Ammie-oy 2010

When You Died

Pulling myself up from sleep,
the tattered remnants of a dream
snagged in my mind—
Bleary eyed, knuckling sleep away,
I sit on the day bed,
catch up with my body,
stare blindly out the door—
and I wonder why you were in my night conscious.
So this was when you knew.
Your decisions made,
all warnings given, all goodbyes said
in a transient world inside my sleeping head:
I couldn’t reach you.
All hope lost. Just a peaceful
image of you fading…
That was when you knew that
for you this was over.


More about this poem
This poem is about dreaming of a person just before they died and being disturbed by the dream but unable to recollect the substance of it, only the essence. I used the word ‘conscious’ (in my night conscious – line 9) as this is the term used in psychoanalysis for the part of the mind of which the individual is aware. As in psychoanalysis, the dreamer wishes to examine the ‘unexamined’ or rather, gain full awareness of the thing which remains in her ‘night conscious’ and only accessible to her through sleep.
© Ammie-oy 2010

I Would

If I’d had the time or the presence of mind
I would have bought you a coffin
of the finest wood from the
I would have bought you a coffin with
painted flowers,
with a lid
and with room for you to lie.
But the only thought was of losing you.
I would have washed your body
slowly, lovingly—
one last time.
I would have dressed you
as you deserved,
laid your head on a pillow;
shrouded you in silk.
It wasn’t to be.
I would have taken you where the trees
hang low,
bowed with flowers…
my last respect.
Not to be.
Instead I wait,
squat by your side
a rough hewn box is all you’re allowed…
but I stay with you.
And when I’m told
take the widow’s role—
touch the flame to your shoulder
and watch you burn.








More about this poem
I saw a coffin shop along the northern end of Sisowath in Phnom Penh that had the most beautiful wood coffins painted with flowers. Maybe this poem should be called ‘I Wish…’ It is all the things I would like to have done had things been different. The last stanza refers to the fact that a family member sets fire to the body as it is slid into the cremation oven at the pagoda.
© Ammie-oy 2010

The Writing on His Walls

What were you thinking
when you did it, when you inhaled
and embraced death?
Were you thinking of me?
That it was better this way?
Or were you thinking of your children?
No sign of them here.
How should I feel about that,
knowing the youngest one is mine…
But there I was.
My painted eyes
bearing down, razor sharp, from the wall.
My likeness
floating from your hand—
the only picture you had, unknown to me
until they drilled the locks
to find you—
and me,
staring up from the paper,
blindly watching your words shift
around the walls,
forever unable to change them.


More about this poem
Here the persona is unable to comprehend the actions of the deceased – this poem is the bewilderment and the ‘why?’ of grief. The speaker is unclear in her own mind what is more important here and is confused by the prevalence of her own image: not only the picture he was holding, but the writing and pictures painted directly on the walls themselves. The title refers to those words and pictures but also alludes to the inevitability of what has happened.
© Ammie-oy 2010