Rathanak Michael Keo


Your dad doesn't care for your mother's dream or about her ghosts. He stumbles out of bed earlier, takes his coffee black, and turns on the news: Albinos hunted in Africa for medicinal purposes. Magical beasts, or so the locals believe, never die but vanish. A woman is thrashing like a bat caught in sunlight as a group of men flee with her daughter's two legs. Two deaths, you think.

Outside your window the sparrows erupted from the trees like a strange ovation for the passing of night. They quote English and engines, clasped palms and psalms, commutes and cell phones. It is the dialect of paraphrasing and lost. Such studies break your heart. But the language between your dad and you is much crueler. There is no choir to sing of its passing.

You'll take your mother's side. There is no debate. You picture your dad's belongings packed squarely inside large cardboard boxes, stone gargoyles by the door, with no return address. His tool shed, karaoke DVDs, and his passport stamped Cambodia are cheaper than any lost language. This ruin haunts you. So all morning the task of capturing this space courts your imagination.

Rathanak Michael Keo is a Kundiman Fellow. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boxcar Poetry Review, Stirring, and The Cortland Review amongst others.

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