Block Party 2019


In spite of your social anxiety

you go out there for your daughter,

show her that you belong and therefore

she belongs. This neighborhood is hers.

This country is hers. No matter what

the president has said, what the wall

threatens, the accusations of sexual

assault that do nothing but hurt 

the victims even more.

You push the stroller, your wife 

plodding by your side, 

on the kind of road that has no sidewalks,

no street lamps, to keep the undesirable

(like yourself) away.

You turn right and see what you fear. 

Men in baseball hats and Patriots jerseys

throwing footballs, tossing rings into cones, 

grilling burgers and gulping down beer.

Some of the women play with the kids,

others watch the men, talking quietly.

You feel their eyes watching you

brown skin and prahouk breath

but no one walks over,

introduces your family 

to the neighborhood. 

Your wife takes your daughter

to the tree swing.

Feeling naked and raw, your hands

empty, useless,

you walk up to the food table, 

put your egg rolls and fruit 

next to the chips and dips, 

hot dogs and burger patties,

and smile uncomfortably

at the guys around the grill.

The soundtrack of your youth

comes on, The Smiths singing

So you go and you stand on your own

and you leave on your own

and you go home and you cry

and you want to die.

You are a father now

but still you want to scream,

I am human and I need to be loved

just like everybody else does.

The sky turns grey, the ground

trembles. Hard rain pelts, 

cools your burning cheeks.

Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer, critic, and teacher. He is the author of three poetry collections: Gruel (NYQ Books, 2015), And So I Was Blessed (NYQ Books, 2017), and The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press, 2019). His poetry won the 2019 Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize. He teaches at Union College in Schenectady, NY.