Poems by Pichchenda Bao


My Mother Stands Behind Her Father


This photograph
is what remains.
My father alive.
Back straight.
His policeman’s uniform,
neat and pressed.
Hands at rest on his lap.
The family forever arranged
around him. Each direct gaze
holding still.
And there, I am
standing behind him.
Nearly a woman.
Not yet launched
into the murderous world.
We made a whole
set once. Do not
lose sight of this.

Tell me to count
my blessings—
the lives spared,
the abundant future.
But without his protection,
without his steady watch?
Even now, I conjure
his shape before me.
Go through him
to get to me.


Starlings in the United States


Pichchenda Bao is a Cambodian American poet and writer, an infant survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, daughter of refugees, and stay-at-home mother in New York City. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize nomination, an Aspen Words Emerging Writer fellowship, a Queens Council on the Arts grant, a Bethany Arts Community residency, and a Kundiman retreat invitation. More at www.pichchendabao.com.


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