Bunkong Tuon

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The Great Poet

Flosses his white bright teeth, 
brushes them with a gentleness 
that only the poet can, 
tilts his head back, gargles, and spits.
He wakes from his nine-hour sleep
because the poet needs a good night 
to remake the world in his own image.
He studies himself in the mirror 
as he brushes his teeth, no gray hair 
gone astray; each strand, 
a universe in a grain of sand,
is caressed by the gentle stroke 
of the poet’s smooth clean hand.
His scruffy beard is kept unkempt.
The poet sits at his desk and smiles. 
The latest MacBook hums, 
docile and calm 
for the poet’s gentle touch,
for the words to flow, 
the universe to expand and explode, 
whimper and implode. 
The poet composes poem after poem 
about fruitcakes and grandmother, 
purple star and Vodka, 
green cat and dirty rat, 
stringing up words 
where praise is in incomprehension, 
with such silliness 
and humor that only the poet can.
He sends the poem to an editor,
a friend of a friend.
By now the poet’s name is a trademark 
and his MFA from a school up North
is proof of his brilliance,
of course the poem is accepted 
and all is well with the world.
The poet checks his Facebook status, 
then tweets like he farts,
quick, effortless, and safe, 
about whatever’s on his mind in that instance
because he is raw and real that way.
A snapshot of his grocery list appears 
on Instagram soon after, 
and a question on the wisdom 
of archiving his Twitter and Facebook posts 
flashes seconds later on his social media accounts.
After all he is the best mind of his generation!
Unlike the poets of long gone days,
he is here for his readers, lets them know
how each millisecond of his life goes,
and they thank him with likes and retweets. 
In this world of instant gratifications,
of protests and social unrests, 
where the president tweets fire and fury 
while sitting on the toilet at four in the morning,
in a world verging on climate disaster, 
the poet sets his feathery slippers by the bed, 
pulls cotton sheet up to his neck,
and will have another good night sleep.
In a few weeks, he will be notified 
the Pushcart is his, then the Pulitzer
and the MacArthur Genius, ‘till finally, 
the Nobel. He is that good!


Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of Gruel, And So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (a chapbook with Joanna C. Valente, Yes Poetry). He is a contributor to Cultural Weekly. His poetry won the 2019 Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize. Tuon teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.