Poetry

Two Poems by Monica Sok

Our poetry editor, Wendy Xu, has selected two poems by Monica Sok for her monthly series that brings original poetry to the screens of Hyperallergic readers.

Liene Bosquê, detail of “Amez Church” (2014), latex, 114 x 50 inches, at William Holman Gallery, 2015 (photo by Elisa Wouk Almino/Hyperallergic)

 

The Death of Henry Kissinger

Anything that flies, on anything that moves.
You got that? 

 

Bubbles children blow toward the sky burst bombs into jasmines.

And a mother’s golden lotus bud orbiting her daughter’s neck?

In Takeo, at the edge of the forest, if the spot-billed duck were to lay an egg—

 

Cruel Radiance  

 

I take the R from 86th St to teach poetry
in Manhattan. My hands sweat
on Cruel Radiance. The front cover: photograph of a girl

the Khmer Rouge executed, one of many
children presumed counterrevolutionary enemies,
as the soiled descendants of such. My chest heaves. To everyone

on the train I do not say, All the sobbing inside of me,
all of it you know now! But you don’t know
what I am called! Aneakajun––traitor of my roots.

Instead, I catch the N across the platform, continue
reading about S-21. We were not inside
those prisons: they were. Our hells

almost certainly are not theirs. A white girl
with a streak of blue hair falls flat
on her back. Her head a bowling ball

close to my foot. Her head a bowling ball that rolls
on the floor. I look up
from reading cozy existential atmosphere (Adorno’s

words) and there, a white girl on the ground––
breathing, breathing. Breathing.
Someone call 911! Someone press the emergency button!

Someone pull the girl up! Now
she is sitting, telling someone she’s on her way
to 23rd St as the train screeches to my stop on 8th.

Doors open. I see how the distinction between
victim and executioner becomes blurred.
I want to cancel class. Because why? So I can sob

about the killing fields and how aneakajun feels?
I’d rather do that today. My head could be a bowling ball too.
I could fall over from this too.

 

*     *     *

Monica Sok is a Cambodian American poet and the daughter of former refugees. Her work has been recognized with a Discovery Prize from the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Hedgebrook, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Kundiman, Jerome Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Saltonstall Foundation, and others. Currently, Sok is a 2018–2020 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and also teaches poetry at Banteay Srei in Oakland. Her book A Nail the Evening Hangs On is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2020.

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