At the edge of the street where we sat over salad,
three children got in a brawl. A girl with a basket full of trinkets
tied to her waist, and a weeping toddler.
As he howled and kicked, his wire frame full of glass bangles
flew across the sky and scattered fragments
all over the curb. Later, alone, he sat by the tyre of a car
and looked at his empty hands.
The bustling streets of Cambodia had no space for his grief. The riverside
sprawled out like a dirty postcard.
Four days into an unknown country, the inevitable happened:
a man, perhaps drunk, sauntered over
with his eyes on my hesitant naval.
Where are you from, he asked my terrified stomach. Hey, lady. Where are you from.
Walking fiercely down the street, I could hear his footsteps behind me
as sure as his sleazy smile. I wondered
if he ever did this to the white women who visited,
their navels and shoulders and bikini strings carelessly given over to the city.
Even after the music in the open square, the sky blossoming with leftover light,
everything tasted of shattered glass;
the mug of beer with a chipped edge,
the quiet desperation that comes with vulnerability
or love. I filled my mouth with smoke
until my hands shook.