Waiting for a Stranger

Crowds rapidly quiet down and bow their heads in respect when the body of the king father Norodom Sihanouk passes by near Independence Monument - Phnom Penh

Crowds rapidly quiet down and bow their heads in respect when the body of the king father Norodom Sihanouk – Near Independence Monument, Phnom Penh

Three hours, on the side of the road, we living waited for a stranger –
beginning in riled heat, ending in a shadow.

It was a two-toned crowd,
topped in white and bottomed in black –
(gothic minimalists would have been pleased) –
ribboned-pinned chests,
lace shawls draped on grey-haired ladies.

Hands clutched an assortment of goods –
small flags and incense sticks,
an ice cold drink, a camera, an umbrella,
lotus buds bowing their heads, in respect for the dead
(or in defeat to the sun).

A tiny boy behind me needed diversion;
he acquired two empty water bottles –
those were his sticks –
that was the start of his career as a percussionist,
(my back occasionally serving as cymbals).

You don’t know who you’re waiting for, boy;
you don’t know who’s coming up that road –
neither do we –
this personally alien, publicly intimate one.
Yet you and we are stricken,
suspended in humid silence,
your music stops, our colloquies cease,
we living caught prostrate,

when the wait is met
and the stranger has arrived.

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