James Fenton: Poems on Cambodia

 

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James Fenton traveled to Southeast Asia in 1973. While there, he experienced the civil wars of Cambodia. Here are excerpts from poems he wrote relating to that visit.


Cambodia

One man shall smile one day and say goodbye.
Two shall be left, two shall be left to die.
One man shall give his best advice.
Three men shall pay the price.
One man shall live, live to regret.
Four men shall meet the debt.
One man shall wake from terror to his bed.
Five men shall be dead.

 

In a Notebook (an excerpt)

And the tide turned and brought me to my senses.
The pleasant war brought the unpleasant answers.
The villages are burnt, the cities void;
The morning light has left the river view
And I’m afraid, reading this passage now,
That everything I knew has been destroyed
By those whom I admired but never knew;
The laughing soldiers fought to their defeat
And I’m afraid most of my friends are dead. (MOW, 25)

 

Children in Exile

An account of young refugees from Pol Pot’s regime after their arrival in Italy

They have found out: it is hard to escape from Cambodia,
Hard to escape the justice of Pol Pot,
When they are called to report in dreams to their tormentors.
One night is merciful, the next is not. (MOW, 30)