Poetry Monday: U Sam Oeur Again

from Exodus

— translated from the Cambodian by Ken McCullough

Once the Blackcrows had usurped the power
they started to evacuate people from Phnom Penh
they threw patients through hospital windows
(women in labor and the lame), drove tanks
over them then bulldozed them under.

The poem Exodus is part of the collection Sacred Vows, a bilingual edition of U Sam Ouer’s poetry, published by Coffee House Press.

This is self’s companion reading to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s stories about his experiences as a grunt during the Vietnam War.

O’Brien and U Sam Oeur, in Southeast Asia at roughly the same time, each oblivious of the other. But afterward, what great literature they both produced.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Sunday: U Sam Oeur

from The Fall of Culture

— translated from the Cambodian by Ken McCullough

I hid the precious wealth,
packed the suitcases with milled rice,
packed old clothes, a small scrap-metal oven,
pots, pans, plates, spoons, an ax, a hoe,
some preserved fish in small plastic containers —
loaded it all in a cart and towed it eastward
under the full moon, May ’75.

Born in the Svey Rieng province of Cambodia, U Sam Oeur received his MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1968. Upon returning to Cambodia, he was elected to the National Assembly in 1972 and in 1973 was appointed Secretary General of the Khmer League for Freedom. He remained there after Cambodia was “liberated” by the Vietnamese.

The Fall of Culture is part of a bilingual Khmer and English edition of U Sam Oeur’s poetry, Sacred Vows (Coffee House Press)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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