In the Shadows

Sal stood on the tiled balcony an arm draped casually around the chalky pink column. Her other hand rested on the damp balustrade, fingers flicking at a rotting papaya leaf that had been swept there by the afternoon rains. The post rain breeze carried a pungent waft of leaves, moist and decaying in the ditches beside the road, and cleansed away the fumes of the traffic below. Petrol and oil would soon resurface as the traffic geared up again and would mingle with the symphony of smells that told her she was home: the neighbour’s drifting incense, the steaming food carts, the open drains.

She gazed at the scene laid out below and thought about leaving; distracted herself by counting. No radio, no television, this was her favourite game: people watching, people counting. The most people on a motorbike (seven), most on a bicycle (four adults but they quickly fell off), biggest family in a cyclo (seven again), largest load on a bike (a fridge freezer), most cops on a motorbike (five), weirdest thing on a cyclo (a motorbike? A curb side petrol station?) She’d even tried counting tourists (one looking lost). The balcony was her window into another world. The sun’s descent had left an earthy glow on this side of the city, the daylight not yet gone but the cool moving in. Tuol Sleng stood a street away surrounded by green grass and palms, trimmed with barbed wire. The shady confines were tinted red. She shivered at the sight and as she scanned the street below she felt simultaneously removed from it and a part of it. The exertion of the afternoon had shined her face and arms and sapped her remaining energy as she moved back into the house.

Guy lay on the bed. Sweat glistened along the coarse, wiry blonde hairs that coated his arms and chest, shone in the dark hollows beneath his eyes and slicked his upper lip. Continue reading


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