Bunkong Tuon

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Artwork by Gene McCormick

Thoughts When I Found Out
I Was Going to Have a Daughter

Thank goodness because I have no idea
how to be a man.

Stay away from men—not just the jocks
but even the artsy literary types.
Might as well stay away from women too.
You can live with us, always and forever.

You will be part Greek,
Italian, German, and Cambodian.
More than this, you are our moon and stars
before we even give you that name.

I hope you look Asian like me.
What would people think
when they saw me walking a stroller
with a white baby in it?
That I kidnapped someone’s kid?

I hope you don’t look Asian
like me.
I don’t want anyone, boy or girl,
reducing you to some Oriental fetish.

You will never know
your grandparents on my side.
I hope you will never know the hunger
that comes with such loneliness.

I hope you will never inherit
your old man’s troubles.

Forgive me for the mistakes
I will make. There is no user’s manual
for anything that’s beautiful in life.


Originally published in The Nasiona’s Feb 2019
and won the prize  the Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize.


Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer, critic, professor, and, most importantly, father. He is the author of Gruel (NYQ Books, 2015), And So I Was Blessed (NYQ Books, 2017), and Dead Tongue (with Joanna C. Valente, forthcoming from Yes Poetry), as well as a contributor to Cultural Weekly. Nominated for the Pushcart numerous times, his poetry recently won the 2019 Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize. He has completed a book of poems about raising his daughter in contemporary America. He is an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College in Schenectady, NY.