The Race

Pistols shoot
and rifles unload
thunderous banters
initiate the race
she dives
into the Mekong River
stealth head start
she leads amongst the pack
of four boys and three girls
paddles faster than catfish

other swimmers dive
chasing for the finish line
the Thailand border
no one trains for this race
many do not know
how to swim
instincts ignite energy
in their arms and legs
signals their brain to
pick up the skill
on the spot

faces
splash into
murky depths
greeting a time zone
between breath
and drowning
some legs fail to flap
some racers sink
and one boy gives up
swims back to Laos
the rest continue
down to Paiyanag's home
death cries with people

underwater
either bullets pierce their
flesh or the
breathing
seizes
water filling lungs

100 meters
200 meters
400 meters

her Olympic debut
two hours long
she peeks ahead
sand and shore
on the horizon
her feet do not give up
her hands
cup away whispers
to submerge beneath the Mekong
she ignores temptation
to call it quits
the finish line waits at
Nong Khai refugee camp

no one cares
where they place
first or second
or last as long
as their knees can
sink into dry earth
rather than their corpses
be fish food
she crawls
out the Mekong River
looks back
at her homeland torched
ammo shells whizzing
no audience present

no cheers

no celebration
only the moon
and the stars
watching her
speed
tracking her velocity
until the finish line

her medal for winning
Prison

then,
a new Life

in America

 

-Krysada Binly Panusith Phounsiri

Krysada Binly Panusith Phounsiri is a Lao American and California Bay Area resident who was born in Houay Xai, Laos. He immigrated to the US at age two, when he lived in Southeast San Diego. He began writing poetry at age 11, but truly fell in love with it at UC Berkeley as a Physics/Astrophysics double major with a minor in Creative Writing. Binly is a professional dancer who has performed internationally, as well as an avid photographer. His work has appeared previously in publications such as the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's national photo project, "A Day In the Life of Asian America." He recently published a book with Sahtu Press entitled Dance Among Elephants.