Imperial Inertia in Cambodia


The Khmer alphabet’s
catalog of stacked consonants,
ligatures and diacritics,
dependent and
independent vowels,
is not infinite.

I could learn them all
and say much more
than the “Thank you,”
“towel,” and “rice”
I have bothered
to remember so far.

If I were a Cambodian
traveling in America
I couldn’t rest on the privilege
of a native tongue
that elephantine empires
have spread far and wide.

I’d have to pay attention.