Purple Shorts


Johny York


She couldn’t have been older than ten

A delicate flower, living amongst the unforgiving

Blades of Cheung Ek.

She arrived in purple shorts

Funeral clothes

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”

Back home,

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

Lives on.

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...


I look...


Emma stares at her outfit

Glass, reflecting her disproportioned

4 year old body.

She smiles.


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

And notice

That unicorn shirt

Those purple shorts.