What the baby wants on our second day:
not the unnatural cool of the Sunway Hotel
empty of the street's beep and honk,
the swish swish of other kids crawling
on a white tile floor and smell of fruit
hovering over the edge of ripeness.
Each time we return
to the room's cool silence,
his limbs stiffen in my arms
and he screams his rage with a stamina
that draws nods of sympathy
even from the parents who walk the hallways
half the night with their own new babies.
Only the rickshaw quiets him.
The hum inside him is tuned
to the din and rev of traffic.
He sits up and swivels in my lap to catch
every give and take at food stands
and seems to study the science
of getting a family of five on a motorbike.
The squeak of the bicycle seat under our driver
pedaling an ambling pace along the river
softens this boy—now my son—in my lap,
then, finally, his first laugh.
Dust settles into the creases
of his damp blue T-shirt
unsnapped to catch the cool of the shade
of the few trees we pass.
The Khmer flag floats
in the hand of the breeze,
as I carry him draped over my shoulder
back to our room, collapse
on the bed holding him against my chest.
Before our clothes are dry,
he'll wake, crawl to the door,
and cry his demands to step back
into the teem and heat of his city,
holding off a world so unalterably shifted.
Poem by Laura Horn from "Ordinary History."