I chose to read four poems. All are in Khmer. I didn’t really have time to translate them into English. I will try to write a little bit about it here and also will share the story of the yellow shirt.
The first poem is about me who sees myself travelling from Phnom Penh to a province. In the car and along the way, I witness people buying and paying for threads happily. They were singing, dancing, and telling jokes. Lives go on with the thread on their every mouth including mine.
The second one is about someone whose soft hand guiding me toward a direction. I was scared but I could not escape because when I tried the hand turns from soft to rough and scary. The third is about learning to love my self. Growing up, I witnessed two burned scars on my stomach. I felt so embarrassed and disappointed with myself. I explored this with my parents and learned that the scars were a result of life, death, and love. The fourth one was a simple romance poem.
I kept thinking about choosing what to wear for the reading and of course how to read. I read my poems many times and try to find a theme. One of the poems especially the third one is about my mother. To save me from death, she brought me to a Kruu Khmer (traditional healer). And I have been in love with one of her traditional shirt. It is yellow. Old. Out of fashion. It is something many girls would not wear out of shame. However, I love it and I want to bring it to life again.
I was reading a translation text in English for the award-winning poet Chin Meas. I called him the Fried Noodle Poet since he sells noodles every night in Siem Reap to make a living. Being a poet is tough.
When I decided to wear it, I had to face another challenge: self-doubt. I grew unwanted fat on my body. With this, women would hide it because we believe it does not look good and it is not a beauty standard. After thinking for a while and talked to a friend, I made a final decision to wear it. Of course, I was so much conscious about my body. I was afraid that it shows my belly or it does not suit with my age. Turned 41 last week, I believe women are repeatedly told to wear clothes their age. I was all about shy and nervous. However, there is one thing I needed to be clear with myself. As a feminist, should I worry this much? I asked myself. If I don’t love my self, who would? If I don’t embrace my body, who would do? Since I am one of the people who promote body-positive, should I be worried and nervous about my body? I should not. So I wore it and I was completely happy that I did.
The yellow shirt belongs to my mum. I initially thought that it might be around the 80s because I used to see her wear it when I was a child. However, she told me that it was since 1974. She wore it a few time before the Khmer Rouge time. Since she loves it so much, she carried and hid it with her during the civil war and the genocide. I asked her if she was afraid that she would get caught she said at her village, it is not an issue as long as she does not wear it. I don’t remember since when I started to love the yellow top. I remember that I wore it to a film festival but I was really shy that I wrapped it with a shawl. Not this time. The only thing I felt a little uncomfortable is it is too tight. lol.
Generally, it was a great event. I was glad to hear that the audience loved the readings a lot. Most said it was not their expectation. They expected to hear just the readings but in fact it was a lot more than readings.
Please enjoy a few more photos below. Any familiar faces?
The artworks you have seen on the wall are of a unique artist Khchao Touch currently exhibited at Mirage Gallery, Siem Reap.
The rain came when we were eating inside a restaurant near Phsar Tapang. Unexpectedly, my friend said ‘Let’s go!’. I then asked eagerly ‘Where to?’.
My question was simple. I naturally wondered where on earth did she want to go in the rain? She replied ‘Driving under the rain is fun, let’s go!’. I had to go with her although I didn’t fully agree with her.
We were on my little motorbike. People called it Moto Charlie. It had been very popular for especially girls to drive to school. It is small and cute and easy to manage. Along the Norodom Boulevard, we were driving and laughing at many silly stories which I don’t remember. The drops of the rain was heavy and pure. There were not many cars at that time so we drove care free. We were having great fun but then…
in the rain…
in the rain…
in the rain, a policeman came…
in the rain, he claimed ‘No motorbike allowed on Norodom!’.
Normally when police stopped you on a ‘Motorbike Not Allowed Boulevard’, it means that he was going to give you a fine. Most often without a receipt!’. The amount of the fine depended on his mouth too! I was numbed and shamed. My happiness early totally disappeared. What my friend did next amazed me till today.
She pretended that she didn’t hear what he said. She told him ‘We’ve lost our way! Can you please tell me where the Independent Monument is?’ The policeman who came in the rain to stop us pointed his right arm to the direction of the monument. My friend said ‘thank you’ and off we go!