my siblings had
birth certificates once
official documents
with stamps, seals,
signatures, and actual dates
not just the typical
year, month, and maybe
day of the week
memorized by
Khmer grandmothers

my father had one made
for each child after their birth
in anticipation of a future
of city living
of city employment
but the papers would have been
on a collective farm
could have looked like
subversive material
to suspicious rural comrades

my mother used them
to roll
her cigarettes

sea of leaves

I may be ten miles
from the coast
but some late nights
when the roads
are silent of cars
and a persistent breeze
blows through, rustling
the wind shredded leaves
of the banana plants
outside my window
I close my eyes
and drift off
to the lull of
ocean waves


she sent no word that morning when
she left him behind
she had just lost a second daughter
she wasn’t thinking clearly and
she no longer cared about herself
she only knew that
she needed to go
she took a change of clothes and their little boy
she didn’t know the way but
she followed the sun
she walked west then north then west again
she moved purposefully as
she passed the spies on their bicycles
she pretended to have papers when
she asked for directions to landmarks so
she could correct her course
she reached her destination in the afternoon and
she fell into her shocked mother’s embrace

she apologized to him later that evening when
he arrived, frantic with worry that he had guessed incorrectly

they were spared their lives and allowed to stay

just deserts

you have ruined me
for my parents’ bananas
yes, you read that correctly
you have not ruined
those homegrown treats for me
for i will always love eating them
but you have ruined me for them
because each time i snack
on those sweet stubby little
southeast asian imports
i cannot help but remember
the first time i gave one to you
and the look of utter contentment
that crossed your face
at each small deliberate bite
of ripened yet still firm fruit
and i cannot help but feel
that each chunk of banana
that now passes between my lips
deserves more



why are you crying child?
what do you want child?

i don’t want anything

then go to sleep child

she was hungry
knowing there was no food
she cried for her mother
in a plaintive three years old voice
needing a response
but making
no demands


last night I was organizing
some scrawled notes
neatly copying them
onto a blank page

first the year
then the month
then a name

I began weeping
when I realized
I was making
a timeline
of deaths


you were his favorite grandson
during your early years
he called you “a tralach”
his fuzzy winter melon
everything you said and did
made him laugh out loud

you never talk about
your childhood in cambodia
but we all know you were
old enough to remember
maybe even some things
from before the “sucky times”

i hope the sound of
grandpa laughing
is one of those things


I dreamed about
our first kiss
this morning

how you laughed
when I asked
your permission

how the palms
of your hands
were cool and dry
against my cheeks

how you oh so slightly
parted your lips
and pressed them
lightly to mine

how you pulled back
just an inch
so we could breathe
each other in

an eternity later
I woke
with lungs
still full
of you

dropping hints

mom was talking
an awful lot about
relationships last night
says she’s come to realize
a person should marry
someone they love

wonder what she would’ve said
if I’d told her I agreed
and was just waiting
on the right girl
and for the rest of the world
to figure out
that marriage thing