My first homes were in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Marburg, Germany until the age of 8 years old. Thai, Cantonese and German were the first languages I spoke, even though I understood English. I have always been curious about the linguistic and cognitive imprint those early experiences may have had on how I see the world and use language. Poetry has offered a landscape for exploring various constructs for thinking about experience on the level of phoneme (See Charles Olson, Projective Verse). How has language skewed your vision of reality?
An Angkor temple is like a French camembert;
it flows down, and the crust of stone burst open.”
We’d drifted through the western Baray in boats
hollowed from teak root,
slept near Bayon
under the sound of chanting monks
a half day’s walk to the gardens at Preah Khan
where acolytes walk in unison
whispering of statues and missing heads:
Vishnue, Krishna, Ravana
Rama, the monkey god Hanuman.
Our guide said, hell is a place we cannot see.
The bad wait just below the good
to disappear and to come back
again as despots or dogs.
My mother, too feared for her sons
what she could not see –
the top temple steps,
the monkeys of Angkor Watt,
the five towers at the center of the world.
We flew to Tao Keo by helicopter.
A tailless dog watched from a ledge.
By its side a saffron robed monk
hands tucked into folds stooped motionless.
Where jungle hid most of the temple
a carved Asparas,
long fingers covering her eyes,
lingered near Buddha,
stomach rubbed to a luster.
They do not age
but promise to remain a haven
for vines and a brooding lot of dog monkeys.