“SEARCHING FOR DAD
by U Sam Oeur
for Lorraine Ciancio
When I left, dad sat on his bed,
wanting to go through his shakes in private.
With no food or water, dad lived on Buddha
while his body became covered with sores.
He refused to leave. He wanted to meditate.
Pol Pot separated me from my Teacher.
When I return, I find he is gone.
Dad, what miseries did you suffer?
In '75, it was ashrams everywhere.
Old men and women who were fed up
with reincarnating into this life of pitfalls
sought ways to reach Nirvana.
Now, in '79, I see only aquatic bushes.
I break into a cold sweat. I get dizzy;
No matter what the ideology du jour,
there is always the same lament.
Oh trees in whose roots the fish spawn,
in the dry season of '75, my dad was still here.
He was alive under the sanctuary of worship.
Now in what grave does his skeleton lie?
He was a builder, followed the precepts, gave alms.
He built temples, chateaux, palaces, stupas.
Yet Pol Pot killed him.
Annihilated his genius without regret.
O grasses, your grandson begs you-
if the grandfather grasses know
the whereabouts of my father's grave,
I shall shave my head in thanks.
O grass of thickets, grass
of sticking burrs, where is
the skeleton concealed?
Tell-and I shall ask no more of you.
The horizon is like the hem of a mosquito net, pelican feet
like duck feet. We've been living in misery
because of our king, eclipsed because ladies adore diamonds,
our forest turned to deserts out of ignorance.
Oh, God! Why Cambodia?”
(Translated from Khmer by Ken McCullough)
On this #cambodianremembranceday, poet U Sam Oeur's ‘Searching For Dad’ from his 1998 book, "Sacred Vows" reminds us of the horrors suffered by a nation. His work details the survival and aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, serving as a recollection his country's gravid national history and a breaking from traditional Khmer poetry through the interspersing of of folklore, mythology and religion.
Poem taken from #artfuldodge,
Photo taken in the Royal Palace, #phnompenh