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Four Poems...



I can only remember Wall Street, CT 

through home videos and memories 

made from stories my imagination

illustrated into existence.

There are no stocks, and no businesses,

just worn down multiple family homes.


The home videos are taken from a camcorder 

held by my mother all taken in the same room;

I can only recall three:

My brother is playing Donkey Kong Country

and I’m holding a controller. I’m too young

to understand it isn’t plugged in. Every time

Donkey Kong jumps on a crocodile, I jump too in celebration.


My mother is reciting Khmer body part words to me

and expects me to point to each one.

The camcorder snickers when she says lawlaw,

my head and hands go to my crotch.


My brother and I are running in circles, 

dancing to a Mozart song and laughing 

as our faces pass the camera.



after “Skeletons” by Real Friends


I can’t go to the Price Rite in Cromwell anymore. 

The grocery store’s dim sign

competes with the neon Budweiser lights

next door that reflects invitingly 

against the Honda Civics on display

across from pumpkins on sale.


Way back then there were monsters in my closet, 

and now there’s just skeletons hiding in there.


The blue aprons smell of raw chicken juice 

splits cashier from human. My habit of biting 

nails relapsed at the salmonella escape.

If only customers knew the difference 

between insult and compliment,  

just like I was trained to understand 

cilantro from parsley.

Pay attention to the leaves.


Way back then there were monsters in my closet,

and now there’s just skeletons hiding in there.


Some days the peaches are really ripe,

the strawberries blush all the way around,

and the bananas only reveal a gradient of green—

Other days my complexion is perfect and I’m asked

if I’m aware of it. I’m told that I must be Moroccan, 

that I speak Spanish, that I’m not qualified to count change.


Way back then there were monsters in my closet,

and now there’s just skeletons hiding in there.




I walked along rainbow chalk graffiti 

where Al’s footprint stuck in concrete.


“Allll right, high five!”

I beamed toward Al’s 

wrinkly palms and 

met his hands with mine.


I remembered his high fives, 

like a stamp of a grandfather’s approval.


He sat on his beige porch

at noon as the undercover

neighborhood watch.

His lawn always displayed

a perfect checkerboard.


Walking, welcoming conversation 

where waving hands sought fulfillment.

One foot slowly passed another

when the weather granted

a late pass to class.

Coach viewed walking as medicine.

I always thought it led to giving up.


I remembered Al walking 

to keep his heart healthy

even though his mind began

to forget his destination.

It’s called Alzheimer’s—

I didn’t know what that meant.


The neighborhood watched

for Al as his feet diverted 

from sidewalk, to his kept lawn.


Years later, I walk along bare concrete

where rain fills in Al’s footprint

like a puddle.



after “Clairvoyant” by The Story So Far


I miss the confidence of my high school shoes and

the days I wore shorts to show off neon colored socks.

Those days I sweated from losing my voice in class.

Now as an adult, I break a sweat walking into class 

and jeans cover my legs. The beads grow

as I think about speaking. I wish I knew why


Don’t paint me black when I used to be golden


and what is anxiety. Thinking is good for us

and the saying goes too much of a good thing is bad

and think before you speak

and thinking too hard makes you change your answer

and when I don’t think, I’m an asshole

and when I do think, I lose points for not sharing

and we tell students they shouldn’t say “I think”.

I think I believe we all don’t know.


Don’t paint me black when I used to be golden


Myers Briggs tells me I’m borderline extroverted.

My friends aren’t surprised but the girls I date don’t believe.

My student evaluations tell me I’m nervous at times,

and my graduate class grades suffer from low participation.

Anxiety is hearing what people think and thinking about what they want to hear,

or maybe it’s not knowing what it is.


I’m learning to wipe the sweat away faster,

I started wearing colorful long socks under my jeans.

Don’t paint me black when I used to be golden

Bio: Nick Chhoeun is a graduate from American University’s MFA program. His work explores culture, identity, and love through an Asian American millennial perspective. As a teacher, he shares his passion of writing to students at universities in Connecticut.

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