Two Poems by Bunkong Tuon

My Daughter is Ecstatic for Halloween

She squeals in sweet delight, scrunching her face
         as she climbs the steps of a neighbor’s home,
rings their doorbell, decked in her monarch butterfly
         costume, ready to say “trick or treat” when the door
opens. For me, I was always tricked on Halloween night,
         eggs flying in my direction, one hit my shoulder
the other exploded near my feet, then came the chuckles
         from the dark corner. This was the way for me, dear
daughter, but I stood my ground, not once did I give in
         to the desire to belong that erases my brownness.
I stood firmly on the ground as those boys emerged from
         their darkness, bikes clanked on cement, fists swinging
at my face then at my skinny chest. When I fell they kicked
         my back and my behind. Spit landed before those boys
returned to their darkness. I didn’t say a word, not once
         thinking of crying or begging for mercy. I lay down on that
cold hard dirt and stared at their shadowy figures with
         an imploding silence that could detonate an atomic bomb.


Meditation on the State of the World Before My Fiftieth Birthday

Misinformation is the virus of the century.
Everybody has a platform and everyone is a star.

Wisdom finds herself embarrassed,
Drinks poison, and waits for the big sleep.

And Patience threw herself out
The twenty-third floor a decade ago.

The ego is a seven-headed dragon that hides
Behind an avatar. It feeds on itself until it implodes.

If we stop, we can hear earth’s warnings.
Truth drowns in the deluge of lies.

I can’t think without the thought
Of others thinking about my thoughts.

Everyone is fake news except us.
We collect likes, retweets, and views.

We now have a mask for every occasion.
We are a people without faces.

We are a people who forgot how to listen.
We are a people who forgot how to sing.


Bunkong Tuon is Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of several poetry collections. His writings have appeared or are forthcoming from World Literature Today, New York Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Massachusetts Review, The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He is poetry editor of Cultural Daily. His debut novel, Koan Khmer, is forthcoming from Curbstone Press. To read more about his life and writing, please visit:

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