Bunkong Tuon

Grandpa’s Death

Since the operation you stared
into the beyond and spoke only
to ghosts.

They placed a tube in your left thigh,
pumped new blood three times a week.
Neither here nor there you were
now a different kind of refugee.

They entered your body
with our permission,
which is to say our fear,
ignorance, and love.

Grandma picked you up,
carried your withered body
to the bathroom, undressed you,
washed your body with soap.

When it happened, the world stood quiet.
Or maybe I stopped moving.
Three strangers put your body on a gurney,
pushed it into a flashing ambulance.
I remember how silent the ambulance
was, how the flashing colors were grey.

I got straight A’s that semester.
A in Philosophy 11: Critical Thinking,
A in English 45: Survey of World Literature.
A in Math 11: Algebra 2.
A in History 22: Global History.
But I failed to stop death
from taking you.

I made the call to your daughter.
I hung up. I called again.
This time I burst out crying.
My aunt asked, “What’s wrong?”
Still I couldn’t say it.


Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (2015) and And So I Was Blessed (2017), both poetry collections published by NYQ Books. He is associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.