Leaving Wat Phnom
by Hillary Kobernick


Until I saw the Crayola box
of a Buddha shrine at Wat Phnom
I didn’t really know what you meant
when you said, “Has Buddhism always
been the cutting edge of tackiness or is it
just that way in Cambodia?” But maybe

it’s economic. Genocide does wonders
for the lava lamp market. Funerals
crave 50-cent leis. Authoritarianism
makes tacky the new sexy. Everything
looks better in Christmas lights.

Outside, the sunlight is, for once, mild. I wave a moto.
The elephant is still circling the Wat. Perhaps,
when it dies, there will be a light-up shrine.






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