In this garden they do not grow flowers.
Here is earth tarnished by blood, soil mixed
with flesh that returned to an earthy residence,
and the family chanting and encircling a mass grave
is only lamenting for a loved one who had lost an appeal
to live. After all these years, the blood has not lost
its voice and it speaks to a forgetting world.
In this school they do not teach children. In these sad rooms
is only an education from a time of ideological madness,
a twisted algebra to produce of new way of living,
a season when the final screams of those gunned by red fire
were muffled by blaring music so that the neighborhood
would not hear.
In this memorial there is only one honor. It is the honor
of skulls resting with each other, an integral silence
that remembers human cruelty, eyes in empty sockets
that once pled for mercy. We try hard to imagine and fail,
we perspire beneath the blue Cambodian sky, and we click
our pictures, ready to move on to our world of plastic dreams
and fleeting memories.
But these are my cousins of a related tongue, relatives
from a historic time. They say thousands of setting suns ago,
our forefathers walked twelve years to reach these soggy hills
of cloudy waterfalls, of wild berries, pines and shrieking thunderstorms.
They called this place home, determined to explore and inhabit,
cultivate and reproduce, not knowing how decadent we would
turn out to be. But on the banks of the Mekong today, old women
dance with the young, shops wake up to the crowd and the music,
and everyone is trying not to think of the mines that still blow up
now and then.
In this garden there is no hatred. Only the silent regret of trees
whose trunks were used to bash infant heads, excruciating
memories in black and white, children behind fences begging
for dollars, a middle-aged woman in a little shop selling postcards,
artifacts and films retelling the sad history of this recovering country.
Almond Syiem loves to write songs and poetry. His works have appeared in several journals and magazines including Indian Literature and The New Welsh Review. He recently brought out an e-book, Sleepless, which showcases a few of his poems set to stunning photography by Tim Wallis. You can find Almond’s blog, here.