As a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide and having benefited from growing up in the US, I feel it’s my life mission to share my experience and learning with everyone around me and those back in my home country. – Sokunthea Oum
Why you outlived her
Is it to blame?
Is it to complain?
Only questions remains
Certainly to mourn
I miss her
What happened that one wintry night left me wondering
Nagging my torn soul
Pointing to the senseless matter
A reminder of how she was battered
That left a fissure in my heart forever
Left side where you reside is empty
Right, dark and heavy is hers
Seeking an answer
For her brain cancer
A gut hunch
That feels like a punch to the gut
A knowing without a solution
There is no confirmation
The injury she sustained from that drunken kick to her head
Which started with your return from a lengthy
Outing and about, busy boozing, boasting, bedding
An argument and commotion that woke us from bed
Denial, deflected, belittled her being
That turned into physical all suddenly
Slap, tussle and struggle
She moaned and shouted for “Akloct” to help her.
Eldest Bro feebly got in between
We cried for you to stop and not hurt her in your direction
As she huddled in the corner for protection
Two frightened toddlers flew under her wings crying
As if you were going to walk away and cool down
Instead you turned around
With swift swipe
Knocked her to the ground.
The lift of your right leg forever etched in slow motion
As she slumped into the ground, blood oozed from her left temple
All the little ones screamed and wailed at the sight
Eldest bro jumped to tend to her with fright
I ran into the kitchen and grabbed the phone off the hook
Dialed 911 pleading for medic to help Mom on 31 Babcock
Twelve long minutes later came sirens and flashing lights
You turned to me with dark angry eyes
By the kerosene lamp, I sat and huddled like a mouse
Felt relieved that help had arrived on the porch
You had no choice as they came inside the house
In your own tongue directed the story to be told
That she was drunk, fell and hit her eye
Bib Brother obliged
The policeman jotted in his little hand note, shook his head, and went off.
A medic tended to her swollen eyes and gash on her temple.
I understood their every words
A sense of worry as they surveyed
Embarrassed for the messy pen
Embarrassed for the urine smell
Diapers drying on the vents
Worried that they would take our kerosene lamp away
Worried that you would be taken away and punished
A fireman approached me.
Squarely softly asked if you hit her.
I shook my head.
Not to say you didn’t
Rather to say I couldn’t answer
Fearing for your life
Fearing retribution after their departure
A scenario of what I could have done differently.
Desire for my left and right sides to be in unity
For my heart to be at peace
For me it may never be
1 of 3 surviving photos that my mom managed to conceal during the Khmer Rouge Time. Note all of our outfits fabrics (light blue and white checks). She made all of them and even crocheted the bottom for my little brother. Photos were taken around 1974 in Phnom Penh.