My Invisible Sisters And Death By Execution

The horde of prisoners
returns to the dam-building site
out near Prek Ta Kao
after élection forcée, April, ’76.

My twins! O my twins!
If you’d been allowed to live
I would have met great fortune−that’s what
Sovanna Mealea, son of the Ta Trasak Phem told me.

I chop the ground, put it in two shallow baskets
balanced on a pole over my left shoulder,
and carry it to the dam,
which is getting high now.

“I’m a poet, member of the National Assembly,
member of the Steering Committee of the Social Republican Party,
which has political guidelines that
freedom, democracy, and the welfare of Cambodian society

must be born from private enterprises,
and not from forced labor−”
these factors render my physiognomy suspicious.
Then one night a devil calls for a session of autocriticism.

The devil praises Angkar as higher than God,
and asks why some of us are not satisfied
when it is clear that Ankgar has been serving sangkum.
“Even water buffalo take care of their own offspring!”


Previously published in Sacred Vows, Coffee House Press 1998
Translated into English by Ken McCullough