welcome to the haikutimes

Issue #96, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, July 21-25, 2004

street savvy taxi
even in rain and traffic
still we pedal on

placing complete trust
in bicycle taxi
as we cross traffic

in sanctuary
the roof leaking just like
solstice institute

outside, thunder
inside, incense wafting
demons glaring

churning of the sea
gods and demons start dredging
to resolve matters

extortionist price
doesn't go to preserve
angkor monuments

last light gracefully
falling on old tombs
and hordes of tourists

i finally relax
leaning against the lingam
stone lingam, that is

dad killed by pol pot
aspires to be a guide
talks plainly with paige

cambodian guy
watching the western women
knows he won't get any

switching currencies
from one country to the next
i fumble with bills

a grand monument
lessened by people and time
still grand, nonetheless

ancient heritage
competing for attention
with the street vendors

long lasting mural
sandstone bas-relief depicts
battles and stories

how it must have been
to see temple in its prime
with kings and dancers

grass shacks, rice paddies
not much has changed
in rural cambodias

wandering temple
surprised at every corner
by fresh new, old, art

giant mud pothole
the road to the thai border
mine clearers blow by

a thousand linga
carved right into the river
water now virile

taxi driver takes us
to a place we hadn't thought
for money we didn't discuss

providing our sweat
at thousand-lingam river
butterfly salt lick

leader of angkor
thinking of tourist dollars
when building temples?

ornamental jewel
citadel of the women
bantei serei

sage, coral and mustard
precious pink limestone temple
cambodian gem

from what i have seen
in temples are invested
the wealth of culture

green forest stretching
for miles under prea rup
chickens squawk below

no prospects, nothing -
these kids aren't going to school
just selling crap

geckoes congregate
around green florescent lights
snapping at insects

angkor constructed
the same time as notre dame
neither knew either

north wall of angkor
yet more god-battle stories
from hindu epics

meditating gods
take respite from fierce battle
before fight resumes

tourist industry
has created small monsters:
children salespeople

women with children
collecting salad-type stuff
in front of temple

just a bunch of rocks
when it all comes down to it
and a bunch of egos

hormones on display
epic murals of angkor
stretch around temple

internet cafe
furious sound of typing,
geckos sucking bugs

jigsaw puzzle
restoratous interruptious
during khmer rouge

like a lotus bud
sandstone tip of angkor wat
stretching to the sky

forest and temple
walls crumble in stranglehold
silent, quiet dance

living limbs choking
kingly aspirations
squeezing sandstone blocks

chou ta kuan described
the customs of cambodia-
our only record

modern massacres
ancient preoccupations
with might and power

small children,
the ones who are not going to school,
stand outside the gates
to the monuments,
huddled before imaginary lines
where tourists walk unhindered.

they scream out the same rap,
accenting the same few phrases
honed to perfection,
addicted to the temptation
of selling t-shirts, bracelets,
postcards and maps.

they spot us in an instant
seeing in us
a tourist apparition,
and in a similar way
we see them,
not as inquisitive young children,
but annoying little imps.

so i try looking directly in their eyes
to surmount the dichotomy,
to touch something beyond the roles
we have given each other,
and they see it for a second
but then place another postcard
in front of my face,
and i scurry off to
some sandstone gopura
in a temple once reserved
for the ruling class,
now mostly of interest
to the tourist class.

the fig and kapok trees
encroach and engulf
once magnificent walls,
reaffirming the fusion
humans have with nature.

the motivation that gave birth,
in conscription labor and resources,
to the creation of some permanent
equivalent in stone,
has now relinquished itself to fate-

mossy blocks too heavy to carry
easily displaced
by rope-like root tentacles.

although the magnificence
has not been forgotten,
another slow and steady magnificence
takes root in an upper gallery:
a tree like a python
squeezing its prey,
compressing ancient secrets,
outlines of dancing girls,
mythical re-enactments of battles
between gods and demons,
images blown on trade winds
from india on the andaman sea,
long before pol pot impressed
his utopian ideals on the populace
strangling the life-blood
out of a fifth of the population -
how similar, those ancient trees
slowly breaking down the foundations
of Jayavarmin's sacred temples.

what causes great temples
and aspirations to crumble?
what is permanent -
creation stories?
mythic idealizations of life's mystery?
regenerating vegetation?
collective agriculture?
ones and zeroes?

certainly not this web page
within which illuminated outline you see
the chance outcome of a wandering artist
with an ego,
with a desire to squeeze impressions
from the three to two-dimensional
using microprocessors,
multiple devices,
and geeky self-direction.

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen