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Angka says that those who were guilty of soft living in the years of the great struggle and did not care for the sufferings of the peasant, must confess. Because, now is the year zero and everything is to start anew.
—The Killing Fields (1984)

To start at year zero
they burned the books
and records of lives
all histories erased
dialects shunned and
new acidic words,
communist ideals were
carved on soft tongues.

They raided the temples
beheaded and dethroned
Shiva from his seated glory
as Shakti watched, grieving
at such shameless separation
of her counterpart divine.

Is this the period of rage
prophesied and predicted:
the fall of a kingdom with
a fated spin of the wheel
of fortune where blood
must spill and bones break,
but the spirit dances on?

Did the oracle foresee
the war-torn lands where
ancients once reigned
in glyptic arts of
the very temples
now blessed with bullets
by those too ignorant
of their own holy roots?

I will be the annalist
sprouting wings like Kinnari
rising like the lotus
muddied but fertile
soaked in rays of truth
of stories too painful
to be told twice.
Horror relived in every
iteration where trauma
starts and karma loops,
understanding that I embody
ancestral hopes and dreams.

Shakti laid tender kisses
between my eyes and
imprinted a birthmark
with visions to see past
illusions, a kingdom fallen
only to rise again anew.

Votey Cheav is a Cambodian-American daughter of refugees who survived the Khmer Rouge genocide. She is a trained lawyer and lover of the human condition. She is interested in the collective consciousness and moments and memories that evoke awakening in each of us. Her roots pulled her to Cambodia where she witnessed its rebirth and resurgence of identity amidst changing geopolitical alliances. She is now based in Paris.
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5 Dec 2022

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