Monica Sok
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She senses that I’m surviving so she doesn’t want to bother me.

When she calls me, I whisper, I’m in the library,

and we don’t talk for days. It’s my fault that I forget to call.

Mother, I’m not prepared for college.

In Economics, I’m learning the invisible hand theory

but scribbling poems in the margins. In World Politics,

I scour the textbook but find no Khmer faces, no Khmer names.

My mother is not an academic and cannot help me.

When grandma falls in the hallway, nobody wants to tell me.

I drive home on a whim, and my parents take me to the hospital.

In bed, surrounded by grandchildren, she reaches for my hand.

She knows that I’ll be the one missing when she is on her deathbed.

Spring semester. Final exams. My mother calls me to break the news.

Everyone told me not to tell you, but I wanted to tell you, my daughter.

I walk the tree-lined campus to History and Film: Vietnam & Cambodia.

Is it no longer true that genocide survivors may live forever?

In the hall, Professor Kuznick asks about my lack of attendance.

And it came as a surprise? Such callous words for a woman grieving

her grandmother, a survivor of the genocide he isn’t teaching in class.

Excuse me, Professor. What do Cambodians call the Vietnam War?

I’ve watched the films, bought the books, which I’ll never finish reading.

In one small paragraph, the word sideshow as in a circus. 540,000 tons

of bombs, in a span of six months, dropped in Cambodia.

I try to answer my professor’s question.

My grandmother had survived everything except for her own death!

My grandmother’s death should’ve been impossible!

But in college, I do not say these words. Still, I tell him the truth.

She was 92 years old. Yes, it came as a surprise.

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