Michael Pedersen: Hello I am Cambodia

Michael Pedersen


On Breathing Room III  by Anthony Gormley

I step backwards into it,

a paradigm of time

and space: stacked, propped


and columned. As foes

of forgotten brotherhoods,

perspectives rage


war. Structure shifts, from

sitting-down to standing-up,

moving to stock-still;


atoms split, electrons trill.

Inside these walls is plenty,

outside is rush and panic, 


the to-and-fro of workplace

and dinner-date. It’s not just

a clock but mechanical zeniths


and a cache of interfering

science. The exhibition closes

but the cafe, proffering syrups


and sugars, remains open, delivering

an epiphany: I, too, am science

and precedent is everywhere,


when layers as complex

as trifle pudding, have started

back at recipe.



Hello Bréon, it’s nice meet you

– please ignore the scratches,

I’ve been browning in gutters,

amongst wet cigarettes and the last

flecks of Camden’s lanceolated leaves.


As things stand: faith is grubby,

sweet premise pale, the railings, too,

have lost their stockings – nowt

but dankness underneath.


I’ve noticed your stories don’t involve

sticky risings, Senegalese dealers

or Lambeth car-parks and I’m very

intrigued; alas for fear


you’d think me mad

(or a poor secret-keeper), I snub

the amber squalls which haemorrhage

through the firmament. For you,


too, blaze, thatching synergies,

talking of six continents

operating like organs. It was years

further when I spoke of  the stars:


blinking blinking, as night

flinched beneath them.

To which you replied Ahhh

the Stars! I thought you’d never ask.


Hello. I am Cambodia

who wakes every morning,

in a brilliant mood, as caskets

of mischievous light scorch soil

into mottled polka dots.


My Cardamom mountains,

fluffy as frightened cats,

thatch mossy quilts

over Pot’s old bones.

Among markets fruits conspire

like multi-coloured aliens,

and bumblebee cat-fish,

having outran river wolves,

find themselves bucketed,

in half-dollar kilos.


Happy days, a new-age

of lionizing afternoons:

blithesomely eavesdropping

on rosy guests, swapping

shibboleths, over piña colada

and sugared cherries.


Must men still bemoan

my wreckages – captain

corners as mini monuments

waiting to be restored?


I’ve not forgotten the nastiness

just come  to realise

that pestering the past

is like activating old itches,

in hard to reach places.



Eye for an Eye

It’s on Sivatha Boulevard, Siem Reap,

where this speeding 4×4

ploughs down a Khmer kid;

his body catapults. Colours

crammed into a taut frame

spill, like berry punch, out

the ears and eyes and nose;

he’s brown bread, dead-weight,

ribs in double helix. A flurry of fumes,

then putt-putt-putt as eager

exhausts prowl off in pursuit.


Umpteen scooters skirt towards

the ostentatious chariot,

which veers from the road,

walloping a tiger tree.


A man is wrenched-out,

torn from vehicle like stuffing

from a teddy bear. The man is Korean:

Cambodia’s Jew – ‘not local’

would have been quite enough

to seal his orphaned fate.


A seventy strong siege

of swipes and stamps

leave him writhing,

like a crushed worm,

on the baked concrete slabs.

Late light sinks into the river,

fogs and culprits flee the scene,

night unfurls, swiftly.


From the opposite bank I note:

caramel chinos caked in dust

and blood, his still eyes twinkling,

fizzing like embers with the power

to come back from the dead,

if only I blew on them.


Feathers and Cream (fourteen)

When each part of you tweets,

like the voiced pipes

of some elaborate organ,

you’re not a thing grown thin –

that puny frame, its bag of bones,

in winsome skin, will coruscate

and carousel.


Such a shift: where settled nights

in Carluke are suddenly prized

and more lionized than both

sides of America; than French

fables where, in chateaux, wine

is quaffed and laughter puffs

like excitable bonfires.


The crux of it: I was prickly

for you to know, a wily seadog,

flaunting admiration over aptitude

for stars – more troublesome

than torpid,  louder than numb.


Imagine having missed this!

Within two chapters I outran

night’s galactic mischief [1], balance

out the receipts  of my recklessness [2]

and in a, divinely timed,

thrilling plumage,



It’s like when a car radio loses frequency

spilling down a deep fissure,

then, just as you forgot about the music,

it bursts back, trumpeting

your favourite song.

So today, as pylons streak the sky

a ferocious sun sets over Glasgow,

bleeding, looking almost African,

it’s now it could be true –

we’re not so different you and I. [3]

[1] Krakens stalking the ship, kamikaze meteors circling our shadows.

[2] The addled, smelted, hazy and heavy.

[3] Things that didn’t fit:

(i)                  that (topsy-turvy) smile;

(ii)                the little soldiers in your voice; their pockets full of cherry bombs.



Michael Pedersen is a 26 year old poet/spoken worder of Caledonian stock – his inaugural chapbook ‘Part-Truths’ (Koo Press) was listed by the Poetry Book Society and was 2010 Callum MacDonald Memorial Award finalist. His sequel chapbook ‘The Basic Algebra of Buttering Bread’ is now available from Windfall Books. Michael is widely published in magazines, e-zines, anthologies and journals and script-edits for a forthcoming motion picture. He has developed a formidable reputation on the live circuit collaborating with musicians, artists and film-makers. In 2011 he will be performing with Bill Ryder-Jones (founding member of the Coral and Mercury Prize winner) and recently launched Neu! Reekie! – a night of avant-garde poetry and film – with fellow poet/political rabble-rouser Kevin Williamson.

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