YOU KNOW THE KILLING FIELDS
for Rada Long, interpreter
She believes because I am Jewish
I must understand
what she went through after Cambodia
was ground down to zero on April 17, 1975,
when grim-faced teenage boys
wearing fatigues over black pajamas,
grenades, pistols, rifles, rockets
weighing down their shoulders,
marched cocky into Phnom Penh.
I must understand how the Angka found her
in the paddies in the moonlight stuffing rice kernels
into her pockets to keep from starving
and bashed in the back of her head with a shovel.
I must understand that they frisked her,
found the eyeglasses inside her krama
and smashed them into the monsoon-soaked soil, raving:
Traitor, intellectual relic, you can't run from
the ”Super Great Leap Forward” and then slashed
her arms with the shards of broken glass.
I must understand why they threatened
to cut out her tongue for humming
a snatch of song sung by Sin Samouth,
the Frank Sinatra of Kampuchea,
who is nothing more to them
than a bourgeois capitalist pig
masquerading as a Frog.
I do not tell her I wasn't there,
that I read about the Holocaust like any goy
who wishes to understand.
Instead, I tell her about a Nazi who sat at a table
covered with delicacies and booze,
holding an automatic pistol in his hand,
who forced Jews to lie naked face down in a pit
and between shots of cognac shot them dead...
as if it were my story.
She says, You don't know how happy
you make me, you know the killing fields.
Previously published in Americas Review; Bridges: A Journal for Jewish Feminists
& Our Friends and Storytelling in Cambodia; Calyx Books, 2006