“My Mother on Her Deathbed” by Bunkong Tuon


This is the sixth in a series of poems from a forthcoming poetry collection about raising a biracial daughter in contemporary America, during this polarizing time of political and cultural upheavals where sexual harassment allegations abound, where a wall, literal and figurative, threatens to keep out immigrants like the narrator, a former refugee and child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide. You can find links to the full series of poems on As It Ought To Be Magazine below.


My Mother on Her Deathbed

Withered away in pus,
knowing that she’d leave
me, her only child.
My uncle’s body crouched in
fetal position on the red
dirt of the refugee camp,
heavy boots of Thai soldiers
thundering on his head,
back and stomach.  
Grandmother weeps
at night
for all her children,
alive and dead,
for her orphaned grandson,
for all parents haunted
by helplessness.
In America
I was the new kid,
a reminder of a war
that tore families apart.  
Saliva clung
to my tear-stained cheeks
and stuck to my hair.
my first crush said,
“It’s nothing personal.”
But these memories
are wiped clean.
All is forgiven.
A flower blooms
in the desert
when my daughter
hugs me.


About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (2015) and And So I Was Blessed (2017), both poetry collections published by NYQ Books, and a regular contributor to Cultural Weekly  He is also an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.


Bunkong Tuon’s series of poems on raising a biracial daughter in contemporary America:

Ice Cream

Gender Danger

The Bite

Tightrope Dancer

Women’s March in Albany

My Mother on Her Deathbed


Image Credit: Charles Aubry “Still Life Arrangement” (1864) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

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