New Year at the Killing Fields

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The Killing Fields in Cambodia














Cambodian New Year at the Killing Fields

The children go holiday wild,
Swarms of them drenching us
With holy water. Skin soaked
We fall off our bikes, flattened
By their rabble-roused blessing.

At the entrance, pepsi competes
With coke, disco propaganda
Dances out of control. Teenage
Guards wave us through, selling
Tickets would spoil their party.

Inside it's a garden, well-kept
Trails between the mounds
Fooling us they were designed
To please the eye. Until we
Read how many killed in each.

Look, that tree, so graceful —
Against which babies' heads
Were bashed — saving bullets
For more mature enemies.
I check for red-handed stains

But they have long since
Dissolved into complicity.
How to poison this branch
If it grows inside us all?
No blessing can ever purge

A pathway out of this scourge


My brother cannot sleep

Barely thirteen months separate us,
Brothers gangling teenage limbs
In the bedroom of our shared past.

You, the Olympic athlete, forever
Running ahead of yourself
But never first over the line.

The fitness I envied in you,
Forty years later seems skeletal
Beside my pudgy self-acceptance.

It's only on the phone you tell me
How you wake sweating from
Panic, how you wake

In that million dollar house
Your anger manages to maintain,
Empty rooms on every floor.


Augustine confesses to Pelagius

Down the ages, what guilt I'll generate —
Whole centuries of self-loathing.
I'll rub your noses in it:
All of us, absolutely rotten.

You're a fool, Pelagius. Preaching man
Can be saved by leading a 'good life'.
Our genitals upset that apple cart. Admit it —
We're all powerless down there.

Grace is a gift, never deserved.
Look at me: if it weren't for the
All-predestining Father's love,
I'd still be burning in lust.

Thirty years as bishop chokes me
With Realpolitik. Pain presses
From all sides while the good God
Purifies with each thrust of the knife.

Make no mistake: I am a loving man
But the whip must be cracked each day
If the faithful are to keep on their toes.
It will all make sense in Paradise.

Your head's in the clouds, Pelagius,
The 'good life' — nothing but a mirage.
Sit in my cathedral for just one week
And your utopia would go up in smoke.


Dawn the proof

Half the sky is Himalaya.
I rise before the sun
On guard duty for the world:
To make sure it keeps in place,

That the earth's backbone
Supports us for another day.
Dorje Hakpa, Purbi Chyachu,
Their names nodal points

Brushing against the stratosphere
While we were still froth in pools.
Far-flung peaks are the first
To be tested by light.

Lower on the horizon
They are stroked by the sun's rays
Before my sentry point here.
Dawn the magnifier,

The proof of global curve.
Geography's vastness
Weighs anchor and sails
Across the world's mind.

The peaks line up as a magic screen
Along which lasers are projected,
Radiance bouncing off itself
Experimenting with colour.

Effulgence so subtle
Perhaps it is downloaded
From philosophy.
Everest tries to hide

As I hunger for the secrets
Of our planet's highest point.
But mist engulfs the apparition,
Long before the first hour is up.

Tony PageTony Page has published three collections of poetry, including Gateway to the Sphinx. Having worked in South East Asia for 20 years, he returned to Melbourne in 2011. Also working as a theatre director, he's recently written a play Who Killed Caravaggio?

Killing Fields image from Shutterstock

Topic tags: Tony Page, Cambodia, Killing Fields, Himalayas, Augustine



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Existing comments

Tony — Nice to see these poems in print; especially the 'Cambodian' and the 'brother'. Best regards!_Michael
Michael Sharkey | 23 May 2014


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