(After James Wright)
A white egret picks its way through rocks along the shore.
Over my head, the tamarind leaves spread their green fingers.
A black butterfly, the span of my hand, flaps through the canopy.
The sea laps, cat-like, at the shingle, pummelling the hull
of the wrecked boat with a dull percussion.
Pair trawlers and squid boats punctuate the horizon
drawing a grey line between sea and sky
where the new moon is lifting Venus towards
the evening thunderstorm, piling itself in pink, ice-cream cloud.
The long-tail boats are chugging in for the night
their noisy out-boards shattering the silence.
The jetty stretches seaward in a single line of lights.
Time to evaluate; thoughts like the silver flying fish
lifting from the water, bright, elusive.
It's cold here! But the frosty terrain is very beautiful in the winter sunlight, so I don't mind (much!).
The journey back seemed longer than usual. We stayed in the small Khmer hotel the previous night so that we could get to the airport on time the following morning - where boats are concerned you never know whether you'll make it punctually. There's the weather and the whole mechanical engine business. In Cambodia, anything mechanical needs a lot of tinkering!
The hotel gave us time to pack properly and shake out any small hitchhikers from the luggage (I found a stowaway baby cockroach anxious for a change of scene). These are all the hazards of 'real' travel. But now I'm home and back to work and the delights of swinging in a hammock with nothing on your mind are long gone. The poem is a response to James Wright's wonderful 'Lying in a hammock on William Duffy's farm', particularly that ambiguous last line 'I have wasted my life'. Swinging in a hammock was very definitely not wasted time for me, it was essential unwinding at the end of a terrible, stressful year. But neither would I want to live like that all the time.