My father walked up
to the Khmer Rouge
after they killed the children
and opened their stomachs
to eat the livers.
My father got down
on his knees,
clasped hands over head,
and begged them
for a sliver of a victim’s liver
so that I would not starve.
While everyone was sleeping
my father snuck into the kitchen,
stole a branch of coconuts,
and buried them in the woods.
Each time I cried from hunger
he disappeared into the night,
dug up a coconut,
gave me the juice to drink
and with dirt-encrusted fingers
spooned out the flesh
for me, his only child.

Originally published in The Margins.

Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and poet. He is the author of three poetry collections and a chapbook. His poetry and prose have appeared in World Literature Today, Copper Nickel, New York Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, The Lowell Review, The American Journal of Poetry, carte blanche, Diode Poetry Journal, among others. His debut novel, Koan Khmer, is forthcoming from Curbstone Press, an imprint of Northwestern University Press. He is poetry editor of Cultural Daily. Tuon teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY. More about his work, please visit: