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2012 Brooklyn, Portland, Oregon, United States
In the early light, the window of “House Music” - my dear Bonnie Meltzer’s little house made of an autoharp - fairly sparkles, reflecting the light of the sky coming in through the window on the facing wall of my guest room. I wonder if it always does this, but is somehow more noticeable at dawn, or if this is a light show especially for early risers like me.

2011 Phsar Dey Hoy (Dusty Market), Siem Reap, Cambodia


This journey is nearly over now

though we talk of the next trip whenever
we are travelling, whenever we are not.
These hands that grip the steering wheel
are restless to create, to find the stone hidden
in the matrix, to give words to the quality of morning
light through a thin fog on all the colors of ice plants.
These hands that grip the steering wheel ache
to grip a drill, a pen, and that is why we eventually return
to the place where the solder is, where the envelopes are,
where we have a chance at a decent night’s sleep.
Like the planet our wheels are travelling over,
we are hurtling through the dark in circles,
around and around some idea of home
we never reach.

I wrote this poem in 1994, on the way home to Oregon from California. This time around, so much farther away than I could have imagined back then, I have to leave before I am restless, before I am quite ready. People here call the place where I am going “home,” thinking that the United States means the same to me that Kampuchea means to them. Western Massachusetts, where I am going, does mean something to me, something good, but it is also where, eight and a half years ago, fresh from Asian Russia and its shifting shortages, I stood in front of 22 varieties of hummus – I counted – and could not choose.

2010 Kep, Cambodia
Restless or not
I might wish that I could stay another day, but I don’t know that I’ll get to Laos or northern Thailand next year, so I need to be sure I give them plenty of time. I can come back to Kep next year on a long weekend, check out the islands, the salt fields, Kep’s own killing fields. Who would have guessed that the handiwork of the Khmer Rouge would be such a tourist attraction?
Next year, I remind myself, I can visit my dear ruin at Bokor again. I’m told they open the road on holidays. And the bamboo train will probably be back in business by then, too, dodging real trains.
I still don’t know whether to visit Kratie or go all the way to Stung Treng, but I don’t have to know until later today when I spring for the ticket. I really don’t care for the idea of crossing a border any later in the day than I have to, and it’s four hours from Kratie to Stung Treng, if I remember correctly. I heard that there was a bus from Kratie to the border three years ago, perhaps just as my guidebook, which doesn’t make mention of such a bus, was going to press. Perhaps three years later, there is no longer any such bus. I probably won’t get up that way again, so there’s a part of me that thinks I ought to take the chance. Worst case scenario it’s one more day, and I can make it up in Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) if I’m really worried about the time. I’m not even halfway through this extended visa vacation yet, though I’m getting close.
I’m looking forward to a last afternoon in Phnom Penh, maybe a tour, in one of those pedicabs they call “cyclos,” maybe a movie and a lobster and the Internet, and a visit to a bookstore for substantial reading material for the long road ahead.

2009 Tarnow, Poland
Notes from underground
I just realized that I dreamed last night of a phantom Master’s class I hadn’t quite completed. In the dream I kept checking over the real classes and all I had finished, but the nagging feeling returned and returned. I’ve dreamed of this before, I think.
Looking back
Around now, this time of year, in 1981, 1991, 1996, and 2008, serious relationships I was in had just ended, were in the process of ending, or were about to end. No wonder this is a tough time of year. It’s a lot in the space of a month, perhaps even for people who don’t review their lives every day.
Getting restless again
I don’t have my master’s degree yet, and I’m already thinking about a PhD. With my international perspective as well as some expertise, I might be on the way to even more than 20 countries in 20 years. Out of the blue I find myself wondering: is there a university in Galveston?

2008 Czestochowa, Poland
Yesterday on the train, while I was trying to figure out how to open the door, I saw that the word “open” was written in Polish, French, German, and Russian, but not in English. First time I’ve seen something in four languages and not one of them my native tongue.
Temporarily content
Here at the Hotel Polonia, where I am without coffee, the wind whistles through the huge wooden windows. A lot about this city reminds me with - oh leave it, pretend you’re one of your students learning vexing English, it’s always the prepositions - Russia. There’s a fortochka of sorts, though it’s lower than most Russian fortochki, and there is a wide, straight main street.
The wide, straight main street leads to Jasna Gora, where I didn’t venture last night despite the possibility of seeing the Black Madonna covered at the last mass. The weather is awful - wet and windy - and it would have meant getting back here at 10 pm. Nope, too cold, too tired.
I just now had a sip of drinking yogurt I couldn’t resist buying last night at a shop called Zabka: the flavor is pink grapefruit and green tea. Wow. And I am very impressed with myself for buying the coffee candies at the shop called Kefirek in Kazimierz two nights ago. They satisfy my coffee flavor cravings, if not the cravings for warm liquid. I see people walking away from the kiosks across the street - where I got fries last night with curry sauce, dodatki gratis - with what look like cups of coffee. I will head that way soon.

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