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Bruce Cockburn — Postcards From Cambodia
Album: You've Never Seen Everything
Avg rating:
5.8

Your rating:
Total ratings: 366









Released: 2003
Length: 6:48
Plays (last 30 days): 0
Abe Lincoln once turned to somebody and said,
"Do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?"

There are three tiny deaths heads carved out of mammoth tusk
on the ledge in my bathroom
They grin at me in the morning when I'm taking a leak,
but they say very little.

Outside Phnom Penh there's a tower, glass paneled,
maybe ten meters high
filled with skulls from the killing fields
Most of them lack the lower jaw
so they don't exactly grin
but they whisper, as if from a great distance,
of pain, and of pain left far behind

Eighteen thousand empty eyeholes peering out at the four directions

Electric fly buzz, green moist breeze
Bone-colored Brahma bull grazes wet-eyed,
hobbled in hollow of mass grave
In the neighboring field a small herd
of young boys plays soccer,
their laughter swallowed in expanding silence

This is too big for anger,
it's too big for blame.
We stumble through history so
humanly lame
So I bow down my head
Say a prayer for us all
That we don't fear the spirit
when it comes to call

The sun will soon slide down into the far end of the ancient reservoir.
Orange ball merging with its water-borne twin
below air-brushed edges of cloud.
But first, it spreads itself,

a golden scrim behind fractal sweep of swooping fly catchers.
Silhouetted dark green trees,
blue horizon

The rains are late this year.
The sky has no more tears to shed.
But from the air Cambodia remains
a disc of wet green, bordered by bright haze.
Water-filled bomb craters, sun streaked gleam
stitched in strings across patchwork land and
march west toward the far hills of Thailand.
Macro analog of Ankor Wat's temple walls
intricate bas-relief of thousand-year-old battles
pitted with AK rounds

And under the sign of the seven headed cobra
the naga who sees in all directions
seven million landmines lie in terraced grass, in paddy, in bush
(Call it a minescape now)

Sally holds the beggar's hand and cries
at his scarred up face and absent eyes
and right leg gone from above the knee

Tears spot the dust on the worn stone causeway
whose sculpted guardians row on row
Half frown, half smile, mysterious, mute.

And this is too big for anger.
It's too big for blame
We stumble through history so
humanly lame.
So I bow down my head,
say a prayer for us all.
That we don't fear the spirit when it comes to call.
Comments (72)add comment
 oldsaxon wrote:

Nothing communist about the Khmer Rouge, really. Not if you read.

 
Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Rouge was the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia. Wikipedia
 
Ideology: Agrarian socialism; Khmer nationalism
Founded: 1968, Cambodia

 jkamm14 wrote:

Not a fan of this song but at least I learned a new word: "mendacious". I have a feeling I'll be using that one a lot more from here on out. Thanks!

 
This song is heavy, and pendulous.
This is just awful and self-indulgent.
Haunting images
 aelfheld wrote:

You're either fundamentally ignorant or deeply mendacious.

 
Not a fan of this song but at least I learned a new word: "mendacious". I have a feeling I'll be using that one a lot more from here on out. Thanks!
 nutrod42 wrote:
This is awful.

 
Can I perhaps interest you in the DK's take on that destination?


This is awful.
 oldsaxon wrote:
Nothing communist about the Khmer Rouge, really. Not if you read.
 
You're either fundamentally ignorant or deeply mendacious.
 oldsaxon wrote:

Nothing communist about the Khmer Rouge, really. Not if you read.

 
Although it is an inconvenient truth, the Khmer Rouge was in fact communist. From the name of their party (the Communist Party of Kampuchea) to their ideology, the Khmer Rouge was definitely communist. Redistribution of wealth, fear/antipathy toward the "bourgeoise", the movement toward a purely agricultural society, etc. were all hallmarks of communism. Just because the Khmer Rouge was also nationalistic does not mean that they were not communist. 

Ideologies when taken to their extremes all have the possibility of being dangerous.   
Totally sucko-barfo.  Send it to the cornfield!  Send it to the cornfield!
 oldsaxon wrote:

Nothing communist about the Khmer Rouge, really. Not if you read.

 
floydoftherock-heads don't read.  It gets in the way of their preconceptions.
 SmackDaddy wrote:

Do you view everything in the world as black and white, 0's or 1's, either or, with nothing inbetween, nothing in shades of gray, nothing analog? If so, that's a fucking stupid way to look at the world.

 
You are so right, but there are a lot of floydoftherock-heads out there.
Bruce Cockburn is fking insufferable.
This may be the first Bruce Cockburn song I've ever liked! 7
My God! That was the most beautiful, heart wrenching piece of music I've heard in a long while. 
 
 floydoftherocks wrote:
Craptacular song. But fascinating how a raging leftist sees fit to bitch about what the communists did in Cambodia. 

 
Do you view everything in the world as black and white, 0's or 1's, either or, with nothing inbetween, nothing in shades of gray, nothing analog? If so, that's a fucking stupid way to look at the world.
 floydoftherocks wrote:
Craptacular song. But fascinating how a raging leftist sees fit to bitch about what the communists did in Cambodia. 

 
Nothing communist about the Khmer Rouge, really. Not if you read.
 MrsTom wrote:
A poem set to music. Fairly ok for all that. Solid 5
 
Good catch. It's like he couldn't make up his mind about the music behind the words, though...
Thanks for introducing me to this artist.
 
He sounz lack a gaw-damn Comminist.
We doan like his kine here in Ammurica!
Whar's mah Kid Rock reccerd?
Whar's mah M16?
 Hannio wrote:
Take your censuring elsewhere. Only fools waste time whining about people who dislike Cockburn.
 
Well put Hannio.
*double yawn.

He can go express himself on another radio channel. God awful. 
meh yawn next
A poem set to music. Fairly ok for all that. Solid 5
 philarktos wrote:
To be able to calmly comprehend the true heart of suffering is an important preliminary to the development of the mind of enlightenment. I've always had an enormous respect for Bruce, who has always, for the information of the cynics in the audience, done more than just sing about it.
 
bump
A nice balance to some of the hate spewed below.
Craptacular song. But fascinating how a raging leftist sees fit to bitch about what the communists did in Cambodia. 
ArbiterOfGoodTaste wrote:
I love Cambodia, but I'd rather hear a Khmer pickpocket sing than this hack.
so well put! :?
God everytime I hear this song-I turn off the volume. GRRRRRRRRRRRates on my Nerves!!!!
"maybe you and he will not agree but you need him to show you ways to see pay attention to the poet you need him and you know it"
I love Cambodia, but I'd rather hear a Khmer pickpocket sing than this hack.
redtail1 wrote:
Whether you like Bruce Cockburn's music or not, the fact that he still puts more thought and effort into his music than many is worth celebrating. In this disposable culture I admire and applaud that. If you don't like the music either wait four minutes or go elsewhere. Only fools waste time whining about things they can't control.
Take your censuring elsewhere. Only fools waste time whining about people who dislike Cockburn.
I used to think Bruce's work flew below the radar screen because most folks had simply never encountered his work, but after spending time on RP I'm amazed by how many people simply don't "get" what he does. As an artist, he is one of the very few who convey to us here in the Land of Milk and Honey what life is really like for most of the rest of the world: the mesmerizing beauty and the nearly unspeakable hardships of life close to the bone. I've spent close to a decade in the places he sings about, and iIn this song and many others, over 20 years, he gets it right every single time. I can understand if you're turned off by his style or delivery, but its foolish to let that keep you from appreciating the value of his words.
I was planning on saying that this song is masturbation with a microphone, but I starting to like it, I think the chorus saved it.
The first time i heard this... i didn't recognize the subject change after the "talking with the dead?" ... so i had this picture of some poor presidental aid looking at old abe, nodding, and becoming more and more afriad as the man rambled on about land mines, glass buildings, Cambodia, and "herds" of childeren.
How weird! I was seriously just thinking during the last song - I wish Bill would play some Bruce Cockburn soon. :!:
Whether you like Bruce Cockburn's music or not, the fact that he still puts more thought and effort into his music than many is worth celebrating. In this disposable culture I admire and applaud that. If you don't like the music either wait four minutes or go elsewhere. Only fools waste time whining about things they can't control.
philarktos wrote:
I don't understand. Aren't his "musical ideas' his "vehicle" ?
Not necessarily, IMO. I subscribe to an idea of content in art that separates the "container" from the "contained". The container is the sound of the music, the instruments used and so on. The contained is the emotions and messages the container communicates. To me this is a good case of well considered container and ill-considered contained. Too me the best art comes when there is a relative balance between the two. The more serious the subject matter, the more original one must be with message to avoid becoming cliche and affectatious. I really do respect the subject matter---the events in the killling by Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia are something that need not be marginalized. To me the problem here Cockburn's philosophy of lyrical style. He is the narrator in this portrayal of his experience in Cambodia. If he would have taken a less obvious approach to narrating an experience with such serious subject matter, it would have a more powerful effect. The approach he did take is so over used however, that it just really distracts me from what are some really disturbing events in recent history. Does that make sense?
gstark33 wrote:
Great art hurts sometimes too...
OK, fine, great art, raising awareness of the power of human stupidity, yada yada. Now changing channels. Didn't come here for the preaching, Bruce.
Good Christ, what an awful song. Heavy handed, cliched, sanctimonious --it could scarely be any worse.
stickytylertoo wrote:
I understand what you're saying, and Bruce Cockburn's pathos is admirable, but the vehicle he delivers his message through can really un-interesting and cliche, which is really too bad, because I like his musical ideas so much.
I don't understand. Aren't his "musical ideas' his "vehicle" ?
gstark33 wrote:
Great art hurts sometimes too...
Exactly
CascadeMan wrote:
Bruce's message stands out in a world of musical mediocrity. Whether you like his message or not, I expect his delivery compels you to listen to what he has to say, even when it is a bummer. I've been to Cambodia, and it is a bummer that is incomparable to anything in North America or Western Europe. Hooray to Bruce for describing his experiences for us. As for the folks who wonder about the RP playlist...why are you listening if you don't like it?
I understand what you're saying, and Bruce Cockburn's pathos is admirable, but the vehicle he delivers his message through can really un-interesting and cliche, which is really too bad, because I like his musical ideas so much.
Cockburn was one of Garcia's favorite composers. I too think he is pretty darned special although I tire of his batantly religious stuff pretty quickly. Southland of the Heart, Facist Architecture, Lovers In A Dangerous Time... My favorite song of his is "If I had a rocket launcher" The last verse is: I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes. Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die Now, I know he isn't advocating shooting rockets as an answer but his anger was real and visceral - he had just been at a Guatemalan refugee camp near the border in Mexico with Guatemalan gunships prowling the borderline. Like the Cambodian piece, it was a dierect expression of immense pain and sadness... and anger. Great art hurts sometimes too...
CascadeMan wrote:
Bruce's message stands out in a world of musical mediocrity. Whether you like his message or not, I expect his delivery compels you to listen to what he has to say, even when it is a bummer. I've been to Cambodia, and it is a bummer that is incomparable to anything in North America or Western Europe. Hooray to Bruce for describing his experiences for us. As for the folks who wonder about the RP playlist...why are you listening if you don't like it?
:-k I agree. You might as well face this. This is what we do. These are the results. And, you can make a difference, but not if "you can't deal with it".
ok - I'll try again! :-) Wow, why all
Wow, why all
:( He is a downer. No disrespect - I have respect for message-oriented music as an art form, but I wouldn\'t choose to listen to or buy this record. Hey, if he can get all political and still sell records, God-Bless. Like others, I wonder why this song got on the RP playlist...
Given the consistently low ratings of Bruce\'s songs, I\'m amazed by the amount of air time he gets. Makes little sense...
This song is upsetting to me. (Understated) Mr. Cockburn really hits it on the head though. If you were there, you know of what he sings. It's haunting, it's difficult, and yet it's brilliant in it's scope.
It might not be the best song in the world, but he\'s expressing something pretty difficult to deal with. I\'ve been there on four occasions and travelled as much of the country as I could, and respect goes to him for trying to put something into words that I have only managed to box up some place, to be taken out and dusted on days when the people around me are just too \'best of all possible worlds\' to take.
Very weak effort. :roll:
Why was I not surprised to find out this dreck is Cockburn? Somebody smother him with a pillow.
Ugh.
I\'m from Ottawa. The three well known musicians from Ottawa Canada are Paula Anka, Alannis Morrisette, and Bruce Cockburn. Though I admit Bruce is a poet of a higher class, i also have to say that I find his music generally tedious. Sorry.
\"This really doesn\'t deserve an average rating usually reserved for throwaway dance beats and jarring cover tunes.\" Luckily it seems to me that some great music that gets punished for failing to entertain, that sets off the little headbangingly frustrated emoticon (get a grip !), and draws an overall dismal rating, still gets played, \'cause Bill\'s taste is way better than average.
I\'m looking out the portion of my window not blinded and the long, late June sun has left deep purple along the horizon. I don\'t think my mind would have switched gears and noticed the beauty of this, but for the expanse that Bruce Cockburn creates in a song like this. I\'m not sure exactly how he does it, but Bruce conjures up a spiritual feeling of naturalness and connectedness that I haven\'t experienced from any other music. This really doesn\'t deserve an average rating usually reserved for throwaway dance beats and jarring cover tunes.
To be able to calmly comprehend the true heart of suffering is an important preliminary to the developement of the mind of enlightenment. I've always had an enormous respect for Bruce, who has always, for the information of the cynics in the audiance, done more than just sing about it.
Over the years I have always counted on Bruce's lyrics to open my eyes to other cultures and other people's experiences. He is one of the best at that and his music is great as well!
Hearing from Bruce is always a comfort. His images are amazingly clear and evocative. I have been following his music for more than 20 years. Sounds like he has done a great job, again.
I suppose the people dissing this didn't like watching Apocalypse Now! either. S'ok, kids. Go right back to discussing comparative glam-rock makeup. Don't let us spoil your fun.
How depressing. I know that's probably the point, but I don't need to hear it today.
The beat\'s okay, but the words are pure BS.
Not being funny Bruce, but you should have left this one on the bookshelf!! Music, this ain\'t....