Untitled Cambodia

The man using a crutch
in lieu of a right leg stands
or rather, leans outside the
restaurant, his baseball cap
held out by the rim, a bowl
for alms, while I sit inside
wrapped in a wicker lounge chair
with plush cushions, dissatisfied
with the way the posh French café
has prepared my eggs. The man,
most likely a landmine or snake bite
victim, bows his head to me
with extreme gratitude as I
place the small blue transparent
plastic bag with the remains of my
breakfast, one fried egg, one hash brown
into his upturned hat. Surprised,
by his gesture, I forget to bow back

Later that afternoon, beside the massage parlor
where overzealous women bombard
my boyfriend with offers, we are exuberant
like children to find an ice cream parlor,
in Siem Reap and order two cones, strawberry
and chocolate chip. Walking with
them down the street in the
sticky heat, we get no further
than a few steps, a few licks,
before a young boy of six with a baby
strung to his hip is poking at my arm
with sweaty little fingers and with his other hand
gesturing to his mouth saying, “Please ma’am,
Yum, yum.” “Sorry,” I say.
And the flavor of my cone sours.
Just as I enjoy my martini less beside the
mother with her head wrapped
in bloody bandages or my
A/C bus ride less with the hunched over women
working the rice paddies outside my window.

At a rest stop, a local woman
in line for the squat toilets
notices the tissue paper
rolled up in my hand
and asks me where I’m from,
“America,” I say. She only nods.
She asks me how long we plan
to stay in Cambodia. “Only one more
week,” I tell her, “We love it here
but it is too expensive.” She looks at me
strangely, “Too expensive, huh?”
and turns away.

Spring 2006

Winter 2006

Autumn 2005

Summer 2005

Spring 2005

Autumn/Winter 2005

Summer 2004

Winter 2004

Summer 2003

Editor's Note


SNR's Writers


Acclimating to New Climates

Skin boiling.
Strange places too; behind my knees,
Around my ankles, between my fingers.
Only concrete and metal to melt into.

So I sit on the bank of the Chao Phraya,
a passage route through the cluttered
Sizzling city, hallucinating desperate immersion:
Jump naked into the unknown,
Swallow the parasitic haven,
Embody the force of flow and disintegrate.

In rare lucidity, I know the river people
will defecate and throw trash into me
dump their oils and exhausts against my current
and I am sure I will swallow with honor and
Ingest the small peace from this heat.

Ah, but the merciful breeze
Has made a sail of Thai silk.
Unanchored, I am already gone,
A corridor to the sea.

Johanna DeBiase, who is living in New Mexico, has tuaght creative writing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She has published in Hysteria: An Athology of Poetry, Prose, and Visual Art (LunaSea Press, 2003) and Alaska Women Speak. She received her MFA from Goddard College, Plainfield, VT.

Copyright 2006, Johanna DeBiase. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws.
It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.