Tonight as expensive cars flashed their headlights across the street and rumbled in the half-lit darkness of thin Cambodian streets we sat inside a nice little restaurant, and through the windows we could see the fish in their tanks, which bubbled empty and void of anything except their mottled, huddled bodies. One of them kept his distance from the others, and alone raised his head above the water, eyes lost in the useless armor of his scales and mouth gaping open the way a dog’s does when it is too warm out. We were there for an hour, and he didn’t move, except maybe to push himself a little further out. The lights were too bright. The night was too hot. I kept looking at him; wondered if, maybe, he was trying to drown himself in the heavy humid air.
My father’s tongue is one I have grown out of writing. I should know these things—how the words slot into one another to shape flow and sounds, how to catch meaning within a cage of letters and ridiculous grammar—but it all escapes me.
It’s been almost two years now that I haven’t written anything remotely creative in it. I tried tonight, but my syllables ran over one another and overstepped their bounds until I lost all sense of rhythm and meter.
I have kept one line, and one line only. It speaks of the clear ringing of some small country church’s bells—old and solitary and, I suppose, just as tired as me.