What the Silence Says – by Anna Citrino

Vonn smiled shyly when she greeted
me, her round face open, shining.
Twenty years earlier the Khmer Rouge
shot at her as she innocently greeted them
from her roof top. She watched her mother
be beaten. Nearly starved, she risked
her life to find her grandmother food.
I know all this as we eat fish
while watching a boatman row
across the Tonle Sap but we do not
speak of any of it.

The night I left Cambodia,
she stood in the darkness, her face
bathed in light from the street lamp.
She offered me a small wooden elephant.
Then palms pressed gently together,
she left.

Country of hidden bones.
Sockets of earth.
Ribs dug up from fields
where peasants were brought
and killed, their bodies left
to rot in river bottoms.
“We still hear them sometimes
at night,” those who live nearby say.

I do not understand what death means,
or why she or I are allowed to live
while many others died,
but when I lie alone on my bed
in my room’s empty space at night
with the curtain pulled open, I see
again her face the night I left—
the light of a moon, the rising
of a river on a midnight field.

Anna Citrino grew up in San Diego County and taught abroad in international schools in Turkey, Kuwait, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, India and the United Kingdom. Her current home is Soquel, California. A graduate of the Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont, Ms. Citrino’s work has appeared in various literary journals including Canary, Evening Street Review, Paterson Literary Review, phren-z, and Spillway. She is the chapbook author of Saudade and To Find A River. Her book, A Space Between, is forthcoming in December 2019 with Bordighera Press. Read more of Anna’s writing at annacitrino.com.

Painting: “Our Homes, Our Souls”
Artist: Henry L. Jones
2019 – 16×20 inches – mixed media on canvas