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poetry What Is Left

A survivor of the American war in Cambodia, the poet Bunkong Tuon lives with ancestral ghosts and gratitude for what is left.

What is Left
  By Bunkong Tuon

What is left after war is the gratitude for what is left.
My dreams are filled with ghosts looking for home.
The dead speak to the living through my poetry.
Each time I write, I rebuild. Retrieve what was stolen.

Nothing is dead until I let it. English is not the language
Of my birth. It is the language of death. More bombs
Dropped on Cambodia's countryside than in Hiroshima
And Nagasaki. I was bombarded by this language.

I had no choice but to use it. I stand on the precipice
Listening. Ghosts are ancestors asking for light.
I holler to celebrate the dead and the living.
Lok-Yeay and Lok-Ta, Pok and Mak, Pu and Meang,

Oum, your tongues are my tongue, and we are telling.
What is left after war is the gratitude for what is left.

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

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Curbstone Press. To read more about his life and writing, please visit: