Francais/Louis De Carne’s Diary



We talked about brochures
for the elite catering school –
the number of permissible fonts,
what the Cambodians like
what Westerners don’t.

The curious blurred line in
a master-slave relationship,

the curious intersections
of semiotics
and tribal nepotisme,

how to be a player,
her player perhaps,

faire savoir versus
savoir faire,
my out-of-date
guide book had no advice…

Theories of the post-
colonial, politics, blogs,
pro-this, anti-that…

all too abstract now
once I’d seen

the afterlife glow
of the exhaust pipe blister
on her perfect calf
and watched entranced
her expert
application of Elizabeth Arden,

the arabesques
of her eyebrows.

Only two weeks in the country,

the way she accelerated
le moto
and disappeared down the track
and from behind
looked just like a local,
heading for a creperie
on Sivatha Boulevard.

Maybe, in six months,
she might eat anything, even spiders,
go crazy like Gauguin,
learn to paint in the dark.

She’ll do fine, I thought,
living on her wits. Just fine.

(AA April 20 2008)

Louis De Carne’s Diary

Stunned by the noise of the waters we reached Khemarat
where M. Delaporte awaited us.
Nothing could express the horror
of the petty mandarins, the imbecile governor,
and the yellow waters twisting through a narrow pass,
a child of seven smoking a cheroot,
or the site of a prisoner impaled by the tusks
of an elephant.
The light a deadly shade, the forest a blacker hue of green,
the boat shaped serpent-like, whirlpools we could not see.
The river all tributary – no one knew or cared
for the source or predominant
direction of its flow, a river unfit
for commercial intercourse.

Man had fled its banks, an abyss on both sides.
I was hot, too hot after my ramble
through an expanse of fetid mud.
I wondered what economic utility
Parisians might find in a lake full of fish
(how to get them to Paris?)

But I could write all night in my tent
cobwebbed in ennui and
sucking on the leg bone of an iguana,
or recline under the implacable serenity of the heavens,
the all powerful constraints
of influences so fatal to human personality,
that thought dies away by degrees
like a flame in a vacuum.
At least I knew there were guards
(of vagabond stock, with the timid air of the aborigine)
whom I barely trusted
posted around the perimeter.

(AA March 08)

Poem: A Map of Cambodia

Adam Aitken

Author: Adam Aitken

Adam Aitken is a poet, memoirist, academic and editor (with Kim Cheng Boey and Michelle Cahill) of Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher & Wattmann 2013). Born in London in 1960 to an Anglo-Australian father and a Thai mother, Adam spent his childhood in South-east Asia, before migrating to Australia where he graduated from the University of Sydney in 1982. He was a co-editor of the poetry magazine P76, and for a time was associate poetry editor for Heat magazine. He published his first collection, Letter to Marco Polo, in 1985. His most recent books of poetry are Tonto’s Revenge, (Tinfish Press, Hawai’i) and Eighth Habitation, which was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Award. His work appears in the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, Jacket2, Southerly, and in Life Writing. His book Eighth Habitation was shortlisted for the John Bray Award, and he was the Visiting Writer in Residence for Fall Semester, 2010 at the University of Hawaii. Adam first worked with The Red Room Company, writing the poem 'Costumes' for the Occasional Poetry project in 2007. In 2012 he was resident at the Australia Council’s Keesing Studio, Paris. His latest work is a memoir One Hundred Letters Home (Vagabond Press 2016). He currently researches reflective academic writing at the University of Technology Sydney.

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