When he gets high it reminds him of how the air burned his throat in Tokyo when he was small, how he was terrified of fire, and then the long journey by boat and plane and bus that took them to Vancouver where everything was green, where they went from fire to water, from the city to the sea.
Today I have so much to do: I must kill memory once and for all.
—from Anna Akhmatova’s, “The Sentence,” translated by Judith Hemschemeyer, from Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova.
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From place to place he defaces the walls with a black marker, Khmer words, Khmer letters: Sorya Dararith James. You can follow the trail but you can’t know in which direction you are headed, down to the end, or reversing, forever, to the beginning.
Postcard, Visite de S.M. Sisowath aux ruines d’Angkor - Les ballerines du Roi dansent
Through me is the way to the sorrowful city. Through me is the way to the lost people.
They kept him blindfolded all of the time. Once, when they took the blindfold off, they asked him to identify tablets they had found in his bags. The samples were pink, like cotton candy at the Pacific National Exhibition fair grounds, like champa flowers, a pink that seemed foolish and innocent in this burned, exhausted landscape. ‘These are vitamins,’ he said. He answered them in Khmer and they said he was a spy and he said, ‘No, I am not.’ ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Japan. Tokyo.’ ‘Where is your passport?’ ‘Lost.’ ‘Why are you here?’ ‘To treat the wounded.’ ‘The wounded?’ they said, taunting him. ‘You mean the Lon Nols , the traitors?’ He shook his head vehemently. ‘I treat the people hurt by American bombs.’
They covered his eyes and returned him to darkness.
Mapping by Taylor Owen, for The Walrus, Bombing Over Cambodia