still holding my breath

two days later
and the bump (or induration)
was exactly 10mm

exactly 10mm larger
than i wanted it to be

and put me on the cusp
of negative and positive

she sided with caution
and checked positive

and sent me
to strip down
and hold deep breaths
in radiology

who sent me home
to wait
another two days

tb skin test

she wasn’t wrong
it did feel like a bee sting
a slight pinch
where the point went in
and it looked like a bee sting
the way the skin reddened
and swelled roundly
in response to the ppd
and my fingers have been
drawn to the wheal
so like a bee sting’s

but instead of constantly
wildly scratching at it
with no care
for how it might grow
i only sometimes
lightly, absently rub
hoping the firm bump
will not widen
before she measures it
in the morning

oral histories

I was looking for a cassette tape

the one where I am learning
to repeat the alphabet
after my father

and where one older brother is yelling
out encouragements to me
to pull the hair of another
even older brother

I thought it was in the black
dust-topped, snapped-together
cardboard box perched atop my bookcase

but that only contained:
the Lion King soundtrack
one Chinese artists mixtape
a radio top 40 countdown
and my first, forgotten
oral history interview of
my mother, from 1994

I had wanted to hear
some words from my past
and instead found stories
from a time before that

always older

when i was a child
they always spoke of you

as being younger
than C- and older than O-

so i imagined you as older
because they were older

and as they aged
in my mind, so did you

graduating from your teens
into your twenties and beyond

so it wasn’t until last year’s talks
with mom, that it finally sunk in

that at thirty three, i was already
three times as old as you were

when they lost you, years before
you had a chance to become a teen


chaah? chaah! chaah.
i have a problem with chaah,
not the idea, just the word
the feminine gendered “yes”
that i was taught to use
the way my brothers were
instructed to say bhaat

as many times as i’ve spoken it,
saying chaah never became
second nature, the way it
was supposed to tumble out
in response to questions and
statements and… everything else

instead, there is hesitation
a moment’s consideration
a weighing of its necessity
before i retreat to using less
traditional, formal, polite
english versions like “yes”
and “yea” and “yep” or the
universal “huh?” and “uh huh”

chaah reminds me too much
of a little two-year-old girl
her toddler’s voice imprinted
on a scratchy audio cassette
answering her proud father
each time he calls her name
T-… T-… T-…
chaah. chaah. chaah.

it is the verbal reminder
of promises unkept

my bucket list

isn’t too long
and some items
aren’t very inspired

get a tattoo
learn to paint
write in khmer
shave my head
kiss a girl

these are all
things i know
i will do
some of them
maybe this year

then it comes
to being better
as a friend
as a sister
as a daughter

and i worry
a single lifetime
is not enough

i tell you

“i spend too much time editing”
out the things that don’t fit
parts you don’t need to know
details i’m not ready to share
forcing myself into this container
hoping you don’t see the scars
left by what’s been cut away
or the wrinkles on edges bent
from being shoved in a box
maybe a little or a lot too small
and you ask, “what if you didn’t?”
and i don’t have an answer
i’m so used to not being whole

a break

there are no cars on the road

the dogs across the canyon have stopped
howling at the setting, almost-full moon

the neighbor’s restless rooster
has completed his hourly crowing

the fickle wind has come and gone
leaving the trees in peace again

and i can hear my father’s muffled cough
through the shared wall of our bedrooms