In the bus we pass Big Man, Root It Computer, Sacombank, and a restaurant spelled “Restaurent.” I can’t live if living is without you is playing from the roof of the bus. Four million, five hundred thousand motos holding men, women, children, children, children, seem to float miraculously between bodies, buses, buildings. There is so much of the green gauze of construction. When the wind tatters it into seaweed, the ripples look like waves. As we pass the Phnom Penh airport heading out of the city, a burst of gold paper is caught shining in the air. I look up into the open back of a truck holding a couple—is this a wedding?
Girls on motos with side slung Dior purses, cling or don’t cling to the drivers. They are drivers. They zoom past gas station stupas. Everything is piled so high—brinks like the earth red at the fringe of buildings, alleyways, and sleeping tuk-tuk drivers.
There is a different kind of masculine here—men stand akimbo with bellies to the sun, rubbing with expectation. Maybe something will be born from this?
We pass the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia and enter the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone. There the Bowker Garment Factory sits lotus-still, eyes half-closed. I marvel at how the bamboo scaffolding equals the concrete. Equalizes. Men piss at the side of the road and there isn’t a square of street that doesn’t have the red tout of Angkor Beer. I imagine the women squatting to relieve themselves like the men, but they never do.
I have seen the saddest cows in the universe—they live in America and eat other cows. The cows here are all bony shoulders with necks like gathered curtains.
One half of the maternity clinic is tidy and the other is bristling with unfinished and exposed wires. These rusted antennae fan out into the air like Continuous Lucky or Huge Sky Enterprise.
A younger cow contemplates suicide. She is brown like me and looks healthy as she slowly steps into the street.
In the jungle, fallen leaves turn black and cradle water. Pale blue butterflies dip to drink. Orange wings, black wings, yellow wings fold for silence between the gently flickering prayer flags.
So much rain has waterlogged our skin. We dry over a meal. Like exotic birds, the lights hang hitched up in wicker cages. Pinpoint-stars, we listen to the sea we cannot see—its quiet roar.
We have walked almost as much as we haven’t. The journeys our eyes take together and into each other seem to last for more than moments.
I remember the way you wake up in the morning—red with hunger—the words
I want more than food—your blue eyes penetrating me.
I remember the little boy, smaller than my own son, walking in front of the print shop with a block of ice dripping from a plastic bag—one hand holding up his pants, the other pressing the ice into his forehead.
I remember the trees along the street that make me feel taller as I dip myself like a soup spoon and grow inches on the other side—
You touch me as we walk through a curtain of frogs—each one becomes
a lowing cow. You say it is a moaning, mournful sound—to me a night choir.
I remember the swarm of dragonflies in the slums—the lightless hallways and the little girl on her bicycle who seemed to just disappear.
Natasha Marin rarely calls herself a poet. She struggles to accept this identity because life reveals its own fickleness through the slippery whims of circumstance. At a recent Midnight Tea in Berlin, her poetry took the form of an aria sung by a stranger, who took a train from Frankfurt just to meet her in the darkness. It is very likely she will never date another poet again.