John Solt

Phimai Historical Park
Khmer ruins
9-14th centuries

birds sing among ruins
gliding through roofless
laterite gateways
left by ancients
sprinkled with
ravages of time
trees surround
the emptiness
ants carry off
a butterfly triumphantly

the little episodes
we are given
to observe

without eyes
the same

now the chirping
becomes a hammering
as motionless as ruins
openended enough
to allow wind and rain
in the grandeur
of flowered silence

women in bikinis
and floppy sunhats
walk through the portals
accompanied by
whiskied whiskered

one family's house
abuts the ruins
the 900 year old wall
is their garden fence

they think this chamber
was where the king rested
now no one makes a fuss

the piling of these rocks
stands for power
like finding hundreds of years
ahead machines from our time

each rock meant a slave
could be beaten
the monument
while a nod to the metaphysical
was a testament to giving
perfect orders
a duped contract
sullied evidence
the wishful thinking of space

ants carrying
butterflies away

across the square
sandstone pillars
animals and
faces carved
on cut columns

the misty red and brown
burned as charcoal
black grey smudges
merge with shadows

light moves in slow motion
like a flashlight
through the portals
room to roofless
room as if the plan
for a procession
with musicians
is about to begin
as soon as the conductor
raises a hand and coughs

now the light approaches
diagonally overhead
through the skylight

you can put glass everywhere
and the ruins will be
enclosed again
bending the light

peering through
the series of open doors
to the flowering trees
brick red to green
blue and yellow ceilinged sky

the quiet punctuated
by the jungle-hooting bird
who could seek more?
who could rush to see the next?

the wind settles here
the light flickers out

the metal tablet museum label
affixed to a segment of a ruin
to describe the surviving rooms
is cracked and peeled
half indecipherable
mimicking the ruin

this vivid memory
will be chipped away
to abstract ephemeral
patterns of a ruin

erasure point
Photograph © Srisuda Foythongsamrong, 2006