She couldn’t have been older than ten
A delicate flower, living amongst the unforgiving
Blades of Cheung Ek.
She arrived in purple shorts
Father must’ve picked them out
Her purple shorts, last traces of her being
Unearthed after twenty monsoon seasons
Placed inside a glass tank...for foreigners to see
An exhibit...pay a fee.
Reminding us, “don’t take life for granted”
I stand inside my daughter’s walk-in closet
“Bong can you pick out Emma’s clothes?”
Oun reminds me.
I look at my daughter’s row of clothes
Pink blouses, cheer outfits, Disney dresses
Clothes, tags still attached
I can’t help but think
Of those purple shorts
A life taken too soon.
A daughter...maybe the youngest child
Barely beginning life
Emma will be wearing her unicorn shirt
And purple shorts
She’ll want a tutu to cover it
“It has to match” she would say
And my mind wonders back to that girl
To all children taken too soon.
I think to myself...
the neary (young lady) spirit
Her Khmer Spirit, ripped apart too soon
Now lives among all young Khmer girls.
Future doctors, teachers, lawyers,
Dreamers, lovers, travelers
Tasked with carrying the weight...
Emma stares at her outfit
Glass, reflecting her disproportioned
4 year old body.
She carries a piece of Neary’s spirit,
As we all do now.
Emma will carry her hopes and aspirations,
As we all will now.
Emma will fulfill her goals,
As we all strive for now.
I walk Emma down the stairs, kiss her goodbye
Her mom walks her to the car.
I take one last look at her before I drive off
That unicorn shirt
Those purple shorts.