No Radio by Sokunthary Svay


“No Radio” by Sokunthary Svay


Sinn Sisamouth, Khmer poster boy
resonating tenor of every residence
off rooftops          on radios
a voice that chilled and warmed

Beloved, iconic face
decapitated          pasted over bodies in posters

My father is lost at Gun Hill Road in the Bronx.
A voice interrupts my daze
sprays 60’s surf rock from the dashboard,
a Cambodian riding the radio waves.

Honey, this was the most famous singer in Cambodia.

Post-exodus Cambodia, 1975
two soldiers looked over the singer,
his palms pressed together in greeting.

He is asked to sing something
but muzzled by rattling AK-47s
echoing across hills. Children are playing soldier.
Fetuses ripped from wombs dangle
in nearby trees.

Yet he opened his mouth
and a flood of love melodies poured out.

An online friend revived
Bopha Reach Sroh over a hip-hop instrumental.

No one knows what happened to him.
It’s said that the Khmer Rouge made him sing
before they shot him.

The stench of the unburied
transmit across towers of bones.



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I am a Pushcart-nominated Khmer poet, writer and musician from the Bronx. My family and I were refugees from Cambodia who survived the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. As of 2016, I am the poetry editor for Newtown Literary, and a founding member and Board President of the Cambodian American Literary Arts Association (CALAA). My work was a subject in New York magazine’s “Living in a Sanctuary City” portfolio and featured in the New York Immigration Coalition’s This is Our NY, broadcast in Times Square. I have been published in Women’s Studies QuarterlyPrairie SchoonerLONTAR, and Mekong ReviewPerigee, and Margins. I am a recipient of the American Opera Projects’ Composer & the Voice Fellowship for 2017-2019. My first poetry collection, Apsara in New York (Willow Books) was published in 2017 and had a debut at Poets House.

Author: A Room of Her Own

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