I come from canopies as deep and uncharted as the ocean floor.
A land littered by landmines and shrapnel left behind by American ingenuity,
where rumored rebels weave between trees
like mermaids swimming just beyond the scope of our sonars.

I come from a country that shines like stars —
lights that have cooled and bodies that have gone before I’ve seen their shape,
mentioned only in whispers,
a kingdom uprooted before roots took hold.

I come from a people with no center —
Exiled by the Chinese, slaughtered by the Lao, and removed by the Thai
into a free land with star spangled cages.

I come from sun-beaten backs,
children in sashes and bare feet on dirt.
Rows of corn sold for dimes in stands
To feed children left hungry from church bread.

I come from the scent of lavender,
like searing flesh after an electrical shock.
Sparks in unwelcomed ghettos
From blue eyed glares ending in “Do you speak English?”

I come from a role taken because there is no word in Hmong for gay.
No words except for the few I’ve been called - ntsej muag and qias neeg,
or adopted words like faggot and garbage.

I come from the spirit of a revolutionary, a hero beyond myth;
an unmarked grave marked only by trees birthed from beliefs breathed into seedlings eight thousand miles away - souls that never crossed but a will transcending life.

I come from a legacy of freedom and love lost to all but the lips touched in dreams by rainbow threads and woven cloth - to fight, to live, to love, to change the world.


ntsej muag – bastard
qias neeg – disgusting


By Kham S. Moua