Part 30

The myth of the churning of the ocean — good and
evil battling for the nectar of immortality. Metaphor,
handbook, warning. On the walls of Angkor Wat, the
extraordinary comes alive. A confluence of art and
faith and the subtlety of being. A place of worship.

A place of submission. Of belief. Of hope. All that
is vulnerable inside us is on display. All that we are
capable of, surrendered to a greater abstraction.
At dawn, colours are smeared across the clouds
like a child’s finger painting, the temple inverted

in reflecting lily pools. I went with nothing to offer.
I left with more questions. What is a battle if it can
never be won? What is victory when all is already
lost? What is forever if time keeps spooling back
to a point of no return? Am I essentially good?

Which would make so many so unbearably bad?
If the mistakes were mine, why does this morning
curdle around me, spilling its secrets? Why does
this sky seem to say that if I have come to it now,
dragging my past like a painful phantom limb, then

it will let me be a child of its light. A place of belief.
A place of hope. The sun has moved higher. The night
has slipped away like an illicit lover. Everything is in its
rightful place. Every road, every wrong turn, every
unconscious move would still have led here. To this.

(Siem Reap, Cambodia)

32 thoughts on “Part 30

  1. A stunning reflection. I love many of your passages but that conclusion seems to lead that there is such a thing as destiny… does it matter what we do if we still end up at the same place.

    But I do think that even if the end is always the same (and to some extent it is) we will leave some kind of legacy.


  2. Lots of rhetorical questions and thoughts longing for answers. My favorite is the night passing like an illicit lover, very clever thought.


  3. The effects certain places have on us are powerful, alive, and often lasting. There is a very old tree, in the Dominican Republic, that does that for me. It makes me feel like the world has grown a place for me, it also makes me feel like I understand very little about so much.


  4. So much swirling here. Secrets and mistakes with hope and belief. And the lily pool is such a beautiful oracle.


  5. While a major element of the series is immrama – a rowing about from I to Thou (and all the losses that love refrains), travel is also central – the baedeker or travelogue. Maybe that’s the mind’s dialogue with heart, in place as the occasion for moment and its memory. Here it’s just a temple in the body of the poem (unnamed), resonant and reverent as “A place of submission. Of belief. Of hope. All that / is vulnerable inside us is on display.” A bittersweet place and most holy for that, a great moment for the poem to truly occupy. And does … Have you sensed what the final arc of the series will be? One reads with that expectation, it seemed to be over a lost love but something greater keeps getting suggested. Maybe the I and Thou within.


    1. Thanks so much, Brendan. Lots to unpack from your insights – the arc of a memoir I suppose goes as far as the “now” but I suppose this one will stop at some milestone, leaving the journey unfinished, with only one possible future destination. I see Parts 1 through 20 as circling around home and growing up, and beyond that travel, relationships and the rest. (perhaps with a bit of back and forth). So it goes chronologically (in my mind)- family, growing up, loss, learning, doing… though I’d hate to think it was that neatly ordered or simple!!! 🙂


  6. I read an amazing book titled A Rocket Made of Ice about an orphanage in that area. People doing beautiful work. I love how your poem rises towards the end, and especially love the closing stanza, where there is light and hope and belief…….and that every path brought you to that place in that moment. Wonderful. I can only imagine how wonderful it is to be there and feel the ancient history and the energy of that place.


          1. I’m the same. It’s getting the money together first that’s an issue. Petrol costs so much here now 🙂 Also I’m waiting for the summer tourists to go back to work. The roads are too busy right now.


  7. At this age I have become to aware of the human cost of all these grand edifices and this old woman now understands that one must look inward for answers preferably under a tree in one of our rapidly diminishing forests. I have travelled extensively when I was young…am also grateful…but even back then I was never comfortable….I felt there was something not quite right about all of this Ozymandic grandeur but didn’t know why….yep late bloomer. There was a pop group in the 80s called Arrested Development….should have joined:)


  8. “Every road, every wrong turn, every
    unconscious move would still have led here. To this.”

    i feel the hefty weighted question of fate in this, amung other things. as always your writing here is exceptional, enjoyed very much


  9. “The myth of the churning of the ocean — good and
    evil battling for the nectar of immortality. ” I usually say that it is the romantic in me that wants clear lines to be drawn–right and wrong clarified irreducibly. Yet for there to be no moral path, no reason for outrage, seems and is, inhuman. I must continue to believe so, I cannot settle. You parse the bewilderment of a random world beautifully. It’s ragged. It is paradox, not paradise: “why does this morning / curdle around me, spilling its secrets?”


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