“first they killed my father” a tribute to leong ung’s book by the same title and her father (type 6: elegy)


i sit on the front steps of our small hut, looking
down the road for pa. i haven’t moved in two
days. my black, now faded gray pajamas that
the khmer soldiers gave me, stick to my back
and my stomach pokes out funny in front of me.
my arms and legs are just bones now, but my
stomach and feet are all bloated. i have forgotten
my hunger since the soldiers took pa away.
they told me that he would be back the next morning.
but he wasn’t.
and so i sit here and wait. ma, geak, and kim
are all out in the fields working for the angkar,
but i told them i was sick today. the camp leader
told me if i wanted to be lazy and stay home then
i wouldn’t get my food ration today. kim yelled at
me later because they could have eaten
my rice. but i just sat on the steps.

i am six years old.

ma cried all last night in her corner. she held geak
close to her and wept for pa. i don’t know how she
will survive here without him. pa was the strong one.
he always knew what to do. i have heard from other
people in the camp about what happens to the men
and women they take away. i know about the torture
the khmer rouge uses. as i sit i imagine a huge fat khmer
rouge soldier bringing down a hammer onto pa’s head.
i imagine them making pa watch as they beat and kill many
other men before they come for pa. i imagine pa
speaking to me. and i speak back. he tells me that he loves
me. he tells me that he will always be with me. pa worked
for the old government, so i know the soldiers wanted him
bad. i hope they killed him quickly. i hope he was not
tortured and then left in the sun for the birds and bugs to
eat while he slowly died. i know this happens because
it happened to our neighbor’s father a month ago. they
found his body one night when they went out searching
for him. the soldiers told them that their father would
be back the next morning too.


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