We were dropped in the ghetto.
Co-habited with the Puertorriqueños, Dominicanos,
Section 8 homes saved us from being on the streets.
Public welfare, food stamps fed and clothed us.
We learned the five elements of hip hop while
bobbing our heads to Tupac, Biggie Smalls.
Rapping about gangsta lifestyle and the streets.
Deejaying to the sounds of Rap, Rhythm & Blues,
Freestyle, Jazz, Dance, House.
B-boying – toprock, downrock, power moves,
Freezes — we got attitude
Graffiti painting our lives on torn buildings — gang signs
With red, blue, brown colors.
Beat-boxing – mimicking drum machines — we got style.
Khmer young girls and ladies rockin’ red,
purple baggy jeans, cropped tops.
Hair lookin’ like Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.
Big hoop silver earrings, impressin’ da boys.
Children hair done in french/fish braids play hopscotch,
half hopped over elastic-band jump ropes.
Elders sell $5 lemongrass-marinated beef sticks,
spicy fermented crab papaya salad, Lao sticky white rice.
Men play soccer, volleyball.
They bet money; winner takes all.
We keep ourselves busy because underneath all of this
we have a cow-truck full of 1st generation of PTSD and panic attacks.
Inherited traumas lurking into the bodies of 1.5, 2nd, 3rd generations.
Home invasions, robberies, gang groups,
teen pregnancies, high-school dropouts.
We are one of the lowest socioeconomic ethnic groups.
Were we really supposed to be here?
We should begin with the Vietnam War
then ask Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon that question.
Peuo Tuy is a spoken word poet, writer, motivational speaker, and workshop leader. She is currently in Minnesota preparing to pursue a Masters in Education. Her poetry collection, Khmer Girl, is inspired by the traumas of her life, including her family’s escaped from the killing fields of her native Cambodia and challenges as refugees in the United States. She has appeared at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Bowery Poetry Club, Harlem Book Fair, and the New York Foundation for the Arts as well as various junior high schools and high schools. She is one of the founding members of the Cambodian American Literary Arts Association (CALAA). Visit her online at www.peuotuy.com. Her second book, Neon Light Brights is forthcoming in 2018.