We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and imagination, but we can’t do it without you. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
A stampede happened on the bridge to Diamond Island. School canceled
at the university—a funerary ceremony instead. Did we understand
the program director when she told us her neighbor’s son had died?
Most likely not. We exchange students still didn’t understand.
We went to the Heart of Darkness, the club empty but open.
We danced with Khmer boys. Strobe lights pulled us
on the floor. This way. That. Our feet groped the shiny, black tiles
reflecting the bar where old expats sat with Khmer women making money.
Yeah, yeah. It wasn’t expensive to get here or get back.
We took a tuk tuk and we danced. We drank. Meanwhile your mother called you.
Your father called you. Your auntie called you from Prek Eng. Your uncle
down the street from the hotel. Your uncle in Kandal. Your cousin’s uncle in Siem Reap.
Your cousin, the schoolteacher. Tell them you’re doing fine, just fine.
You’re the most American you’ll ever be.
Monica Sok is the author of the chapbook Year Zero, for which she won the Poetry Society of America’s Chapbook Fellowship. She has been awarded fellowships from Kundiman, NEA, and most recently a 2018–20 Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
A recording of our virtual literary event with three generations of Black women writers.
Remembering poets Lynda Hull and Michael S. Harper, with original portraits
Netflix’s Maid and three recent best-sellers depict the agonies and rage of being a low-wage housekeeper or nanny. But all fail to identify capitalism itself as the culprit.