dewey beach 1
Dewey Beach, 2022
(for Paul and Estelle)
by Bunkong Tuon

The first time we went on vacation since COVID hit.
The first time my son put his feet in the sand,
Felt waves crashing, his eyes lit up.
Laughter cascading through his little body.
The first time my daughter dipped her head in the
Cool pool water, practicing trust in
Herself and the world,
The next day she kicked her legs, moved her arms,
Propelled her body forward.
Her Yiayia said, “You’re swimming, Chanda,
You’re swimming.” And the world we left behind
Disappeared. Of six million lives lost to the virus.
Of quarantines, school shootings, and isolation.
And childhood magic returned. I thought of my own
Upbringing. Refugee. Orphan.
Child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide.
How I wanted to give my kids a childhood
I never had. A father who is there
Holding their hands. Laughing as
Waves crash against their feet.
Chanting their names as they practice
How to live in this mad world.
Hollering in delight at their triumphs,
Hugging, and kissing their heads
When they need comfort.
Today, I’m giving extra love against Omicron
& its variants, against school shootings &
Police violence, against war & childhood traumas,
Against a world on the verge of destruction.
I’m giving extra love for orphans & refugees
Of the world.
Oh sweet, tender, crazy love,
Help me undo the hurt and loneliness
Of my childhood.

IMAGE: Dewey Beach, Delaware, birchwood postcards, available at Amazon.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am an orphan who became a father to two beautiful children, and I wanted to give to my kids what I didn’t have when I was young. When the pandemic hit, all that love and that desire for my children to have a normal childhood intensified. In the summer of 2022, my wife’s parents rented a beach house in Delaware, where the kids had a great time. For a quick second, it almost felt like everything was back to “normal.” Dear readers, I take each day with my kids as a gift, as I should. I am grateful to be alive and be with my kids.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of GruelAnd So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (Yes Poetry). His prose and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Copper Nickel, The Lowell Review, Massachusetts Review, The American Journal of Poetry, carte blanche, Diode Poetry Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Consequence, among others. He teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, New York.