By Edward Tick
“This is too much! It seems like I just get over one crisis and another occurs. I need to piece my soul together.” So blurted author Sieu Sean Do’s mother after the family’s harrowing and narrow escape into Viet Nam from the Khmer Rouge genocide in their native Cambodia. Sieu Sean’s memoir of the family’s journey from an idyllic childhood in rural Cambodia through the hell of the Killing Fields is his work through witnessing and storytelling to piece his soul together.
Sieu’s narrative of the family’s long ordeal is largely straightforward. He was a child and teenager during these ordeals, so we see them through the innocent boy’s eyes. The narrative piles incident upon incident as challenges, crises, betrayals, disappointments, abandonments, starvation, crimes, executions, and accidental deaths cascade not only upon this family, but all of Cambodia. Yet the story takes us to Cambodian traditions and intimately into his large extended family that, miraculously, survived together. As he summarizes at the end, “Our elders taught us well that we need to survive not just alone, but together.” Thus, as readers we have close encounters not just with the horrors of genocide, but the intimacies of a traditional Cambodian family and many traditional practices and folk tales that surround and support the survivors in their ordeals.
Humberto Ak’abal is a poet from Guatemala. These poems were written in K’iche and translated into Spanish by Humberto. Further translation from the Spanish into English was made by Miguel Rivera with Fran Quinn. All poems are extracted from the book by Humberto Ak’abal In the Courtyard of the Moon, Los Angeles, Tia Chucha Press, forthcoming in April 2021. We kindly thank the publisher for permission to publish these poems.
We present in this section a collection of poetical contributions that explore the topic of the close encounter in war.
Edward Tick: Potatoes (November 22, 2022)
Svitlana Povalyaeva: Poems for Roman (November 9, 2022)
Margaret Stetz: Dirt (January 12, 2022)
Peter Yeomans: Two Poems (June 4, 2021)
Scott Casey: You died today (May 4, 2021)
Kate Dahlstedt: Sentry (April 21, 2021)
Humberto Ak’abal: Selected poems from In the Courtyard of the Moon (Tia Chucha Press, 2021) (March 26, 2021)
Edward Tick: The Emotions after War in Viet Nam. Poetry from my Reconciliation and Healing Journeys (March 17, 2021)
Yoav Ben Yosef: Smol Yameen (March 9, 2021)
Trần Đình Song: Dòng suối quê hương (The Streams of Our Native Land) (February 22, 2021)
Charles “Sandy” Scull and Brent “Mac” MacKinnon: Selected poetry and prose by Sandy Scull and Brent MacKinnon from the volume Agent Orange Roundup. Living with a Foot in Two Worlds (Bookstand Publishing, 2020) (December 27, 2020)
Edward Tick: Selected poetry and prose by Edward Tick (December 27, 2020)