“ . . . there is nothing so coherent as a paranoid’s delusion or a swindler’s story.”
—Clifford Geertz, in his study of Balinese cockfighting

We’ve left the frontier with the blue helmets.

There is always Schubert playing somewhere in a war zone.
The commander puts Notturno in E-flat Major on deck
and we are in-country.

Children with machetes swing at us, joyously running up
from fields to slaughter our U.N. Toyota as a sacred cow.

The midday nocturne slows their movements to a cinematic
glide until the doors and windows are hit with blades.

One shatters glass, and the explosion of a side mirror
spooks us. Vulnerable, we enjoy the spectacle as much
as they. It’s why we’ve come.

In a notebook of facts, acronyms for multinational NGOs—tincture
for a wound—monsoon season—moldboard plows are proxy
—harrows idle on washed out roads—rubber sandals of amputees
stained with laterite in the courtyard of a tinseled deity—
smooth limbed monks—temple halls in chant.

In the banyan canopy are four-faced towers—shade of thought where
drifts across stone brows—at the portals of Angkor stands
an ephor of the Financial Times—in Oxford diction asks:
Were these little people ever capable of this?

Amphibians fidget on the rubber trees—child in the bower raised
like an air plant on bicycle handlebars—epiphytic creepers hang
from their boles—baguettes and roasted crickets in the neon
shop—a pig’s navel rising from thin salt broth—an empty flowered pram.

Auctioned at Sotheby’s from this thatched hut—we are shown more
fat-lobed Devas—headless Shivas crated for illicit shipment.

Ballot boxes stacked in the hotel, polling officers surveyed by military
police. Every window is a motion picture, attracting locust to the

4 military observers
41 other military personnel
16 civilian police
5 international civilian staff
16 local electoral staff
82 total

We’ve driven all night to the capital to file our dispatches.
The new escalators in Phnom Penh are a sensation,
with instructors to embark each new pilgrim of modernity
as the next one rises into place.

This, at last, is what was wanted.
Something to show them back home
that isn’t wounded.

Glenn Mott

Glenn is author of Analects on a Chinese Screen, a book of poetry set against China’s rise to globalization. Mott has been the recipient of a Davis Fellowship for Peace from Middlebury College, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His Eclogues in a Mustard Seed Garden will be published by Turtle Point Press in March 2021. He lives in New York City.

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