I grew up in a home of whispers
where talking took place at the table.
My family sat in an “L”
and eyes only met peripherally

Our gaze either focused on the shared dish
that complimented portions of rice,
or the television across the room—

characters in Three’s Company or The Simpsons.
We would laugh, not seeing them as role models.

A home of printed words only found
in glossy magazines, or accompanied
by pictures of Clifford.           And I write

stories and poems they will never read,
because their broken, written English lives on iPhones
where autocorrect struggles to articulate what they really want to say.

And when I’m asked at family gatherings
to write about our stories,
I wonder, what is mine?

Their experience of genocide in Cambodia.
The killing fields, the starvation and murder, and
the salvation in America—The only life I know,

but not the only life my words attempt to live.
Words that may never come across
the eyes of those rightfully unwilling to relive a grim past.

A tongue that finds comfort in spooning through
bitter melon soup, and casual fictional dilemmas.
Words fed to me through silence.

Photo by Stefan Vladimirov on Unsplash

Nick Chhoeun

Nick Chhoeun is a graduate of American University's MFA program. His mentors were David Keplinger and Kyle Dargan. He currently teaches English at colleges in Connecticut.