Van verses

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red earth

On the six-hour van trip from Mondulkiri to Phnom Penh this morning, I got bored listening to music and decided to write down some thoughts that have been in my mind the past few days. What came out are four simple verses which I can’t really call poems, lest my real poet friends disown me, if they haven’t already. I have not been writing poetry for some time, and (spoiler alert: brandishing rare bragging right!) although I personally got praise for my poetry from Herminio S.Beltran, editor of Ani, Cultural Center of the Philippines Literary Anthology for some of my works published there ages ago, I let my literary sword rust for years. Everyone knows there’s no excuse for writing bad poetry, so I’m just ranting here.
Lastly, three things: first is that these are about and not about Cambodia. Cambodia is just a trigger because I’ve been here four weeks already and trying to soak in as much as I could, but as I started typing on my cellphone, I realized its about many places, Cambodia, Philippines, India, and other places I have read about or seen in pictures, generic places I have created in my mind; second, simple as these verses might seem, I invite you to go beyond the first level of interpretation, and if you find something, let me know; third, I encourage you to write your thoughts. It doesn’t matter if you don’t consider yourself a writer. It doesn’t have to be a poem or essay in their strict sense. If you feel passionately about something, just write about it in the language you are comfortable with, never mind grammar and rules, just write, and see where that journey takes you.


the forests have migrated

the forests have migrated

to the cities and towns,

they are now prettily sitting

in hotels and restaurants.


they traveled great distances

and stopped over at  gymnasiums

which chiseled their bodies

to desired shapes and sizes

and trained to forget

the fresh scents of home.

they sit in establishments,

heavily made up

waiting for ohhs and ahhs

of those who blindly admire

as if its enough validation

or worthy a prize

for turning back

from everything

they used to


dear and high


they sit there

at first look strong

but in truth

tired, old, and brown.



rubber plantation

trees neatly lined up

in carefully measured distance

like uniformed pupils

in a classroom

who look alike

being trained to be alike

speak alike

think alike


anything deviating

from this pretty little forest

is an anomaly

an individual courageous


to be unique

but a rebel




addiction feeds

never could get enough

of those brightly colored straws

hard, flat ones,

sophisticated, bendy ones

we sip them by the thousands

make them fodder for fish

and stuff the bellies of birds


those nifty beer rings

and easy plastic cup slings

choke turtles

or give them sexy waists

like ones we want to have


is it a plastic bag or jelly fish?

who cares, not a hungry dolphin!

plastic cups, caps, bottles

knick-knacks and cute little things

cheap and bright and fast and gone

make their way to rivers and oceans


the great pacific patch

shows the woundedness of the seas

yet corporates lobby

and rule over states

creating narratives of convenience

modernity and development

where profit is king

and laws are to break


we mindlessly abuse

and put future to waste

is it so hard to see

who our addiction feeds?



red earth

oh red earth

you have been soaked in blood

its painful memory still etched in your body

your prodigal children

beat you flat to the ground

choke you with poisons

and thrash you

till there’s none.


the beauty that used to adorn you

have been sent to distant lands

you have been left naked

and wanting under the sun.


i know you don’t cry in silence

dear mother

your tears beat our roofs

to help us understand

your sighs sweep off villages

but we continue to burn

your voice booms in thunder and lightning

but if they hear

do they even



i’m sorry dear mother

we lost your language

a long time ago

we have chosen to change

and we have chosen to grow


thank you red earth

for giving us everything

for infinite loving

that even in death

you embrace us.

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