In the red-roofed stucco house
Of my childhood, the dining room
Was screened off by folding doors
With small glass panes. Our neighbors
The Bertins, who barely escaped Hitler,
Often joined us at table. One night
Their daughter said, In Vienna
Our dining room had doors like these.
For a moment, we all sat quite still.
And when Nath Nong, who has to live
In Massachusetts now, saw a picture
Of green Cambodian fields she said,
My father have animal like this,
Name krebey English? I told her,
Water buffalo. She said, Very very
Good animal. She put her finger
On the picture of the water buffalo
And spoke its Khmer name once more.
So today, when someone (my ex-
Husband) sends me a shiny picture
Of a church in Santa Cruz that lost
Its steeple in the recent earthquake
There’s no reason at all
For my throat to ache at the sight
Of a Pacific-blue sky and an old church
Three thousand miles away, because
If I can only save enough money
I can go back there any time
And stay as long as I want.
– Julie Alger