Monday, March 13, 2023

new from above/ground press: LEARNING HOW TO TALK, by Nick Chhoeun

Nick Chhoeun


They filled unmarked graves
with fresh bodies and bullet casings,

unable to comprehend
, sleep, cry, eat.

How did hunger outweigh danger
as Dad threw rocks at beehives
in the smoke of a crossfire?

Within how many nightmares did Mom find sanctuary in
as she slowly forgot
details of her mother’s face?

They stumbled onto different planes.

They couldn’t translate
Pittsburgh from New Hampshire.

I wondered when they relearned
safety, groceries, income, choice.

Their first house, a statue.
I didn’t worry about security.

I was not allowed to be picky,
or to properly identify nothing.

I learned guests were
forbidden from hotels.

I didn’t care about
a big family until

They said,
You should have
six uncles,

one grandfather,

published in Ottawa by above/ground press
March 2023
as part of above/ground press’ thirtieth anniversary
a/g subscribers receive a complimentary copy

Nick Chhoeun
earned his MFA in Creative Writing from American University. His work explores themes of identity, culture, and love through an Asian American millennial perspective. As a teacher, he shares his passion for writing with his students at Central Connecticut State University and the University of Hartford. He is a Davis Fellow. Aside from his works in writing, you can find him rocking out with his band Not Freshmen.

To order, send cheques (add $1 for postage; in US, add $2; outside North America, add $5) to: rob mclennan, 2423 Alta Vista Drive, Ottawa ON K1H 7M9. E-transfer or PayPal at rob_mclennan (at) or the PayPal button at

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