Tuesday, January 8, 2008

So much for thinking positive. Another terrible poem...

Sorry sometimes it is the only way I can put what I feel into words, albeit terrible words!

Yesterday you asked me: what is it like to be a mother in a foreign land? How do you feel living in Cambodia?

Fine, lovely, easy, privileged, interesting.
Lonely at times, home-sick at times, sweaty, but mostly fine.
Nothing special.


Can you write about it for our magazine?
I said I hadn’t the time. It would take me weeks to write it all into one concise article. It is unmanageable. I don’t know where to start.

Ask me today. I’ve changed my mind. Today I can’t seem to find the time for anything else.

Three mothers, in the market this morning, held their sick babies in their arms and begged for money.
Heart-wrenching.

I am not supposed to give. It is encourages them to beg.
Panicked.

I do give. Every time.
Guilty. Ignorant.

Another mother in the street smiled at me.
Too fine, too lovely, too easy, too privileged.

She was pulling her house behind her.
A simple, wooden rubbish cart, filled with play-things for her two children, also inside.
Carelessly discarded tin cans, broken bottles, bits of string, used paper, metal scraps – all to be sold and re-used for her living. What living?
Presumptuous. Ignorant.

Does she feel the same about her children as I do, mine?
Yes surely, though I doubt she has the luxury of time nor the peace of mind to dwell on it much.
Arrogant. Ignorant.

Eyes lock, I try to connect…
How to look?
How to smile?
Don’t show pity.
How to get across compassion, love, understanding?
Uncomfortable.

As if it makes a difference to her anyway.
Helpless.

Another mother drives past.
Tiny and beautifully presented behind the wheel of a frightening animal of a vehicle, shiny and black. Darkened, reinforced windows. Child in the back, bodyguard beside her.
All wrong

She hoots loudly and the rubbish collector gets out of her way.
Outraged.

Nearly home, I receive a text from my friend back home. It’s the middle of the night. She can’t sleep.
She has been in England seeking asylum from Kenyan atrocities for five years.
Alone, in a flat granted her only by virtue of being paralysed, her body destroyed by torturers, she watches the news of the latest violence.
The last time she heard from her children they were in a bush hiding from wild men with machetes. Six days ago now. No more news.
She’s safe and warm in England, where civilized people do not wage brutal wars on their own people.
But she is not their people.
She is not welcome there.
She is still waiting; five years of waiting.
Will they send her back to face her persecutors?
They are also waiting.

I have run out of words. Ask my friend how it feels to be a mother in a foreign land.

If you liked this terrible poem click here for an even worse one.

5 comments:

maddy said...

Wow - hard hitting stuff, George - loved your poem xx

Anonymous said...

We are moving to Cambodia soon and as a young mom I had frequently found myself wrestling with how I would navigate the poverty. Then I found your blog. I love how you use words to express the tangle of emotions that is aroused by the pain in our world... at least I have extra articulations to think about when I confront these myself :) Thank you!

Melisa said...

I don't think it is terrible, nor is They Call It Child-led. I am really impressed by the rather 'uninhibited' way you express all that you are feeling as you watch the passing parade in the streets of PP.

Georgie said...

Thank you everyone and welcome to Phnom Penh! Feel free to email me when you get here or if you want any advice! There is a great network for parents here where you can email your questions re shops, schools etc etc.

Tara said...

These poems are wonderful - not terrible! All very lump-in-the-throat stuff. I am constantly amazed about how much space you have in your heart and your emotions to absorb other mothers' predicaments - and then even write about it! I just switched off when my daughter was very young - didn't watch the news or anything. I couldn't cope and even now find some excuse or other not to 'take on' more emotionally. You certainly should be a Mother Supporter - you already have been to me! T x