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The Light of Darkness
Pary Chuong
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The Light of Darkness


The Khmer Rouge.

Families torn apart,
Leaving members behind to mourn alone.
That kind of grief,
Can live on forever in someone.
Just how it has lived in my mother all these years. 

Her mind,
Often lives in darkness.
A battlefield.
With hidden mines,
Ready to explode at any given moment.

The pain,
So deep and dense,
Like the jungle.
The residual aftermath of war,
Rests deeply in her soul.

Wading through the murky waters,
She drowns from time to time,
In her own thoughts and memories.
And coming back to life.
In sadness and in rage.

The anger.
And sorrow.
Ebbs and flows, like the ocean currents.
Beautiful in her own intensity,
Crashing against the shore.

Gripped by the past.
Her heart aches,
Trapped by her own memories,
A prisoner of her own mind.

I try to rescue her.
But it is a never-ending battle.
A tug-a-war,
Between generations.
Caught in a space of misconceptions,
Held by compassion.

Her stories,
Engulfed in pain or fear,
I listen intently.
With silent tears,
Streaming down our faces.
We hold space.
In the darkness,
We sit.
Side by side, wondering
When the pain will disappear.
But it never does.

Though, I remind her
To look for the stars.
To focus on the brightness that each exudes.
Her children.
Her grandchildren.
Her survival.
Their survival.
Where we are now.
And the struggles that have
Made us who we are today.

That light I see everyday
In her,
I see in me.
In us.
Traveled through all her stories,
Of pain, loss, love and triumphs.

Her stories
I could listen for hours on end.
I love her so, wishing I could replace her pain with some peace,
And forgiveness.

In all the darkness,
She recognizes too, the many culminating moments of brightness in her life,
From past to present.
The intersectionality of all things that exist
In her
Strength, love and courage.

She is the light in her own darkness.

PARY CHUONG is an educator in East Oakland who works at Esperanza Elementary, a Spanish dual-language immersion school in Deep East Oakland. She moved to Oakland as a girl in 1983 after her family fled the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. Her research examines mental health impacted by war, migration and institutional oppression while lifting up unheard stories and empowering people who have been most underserved. She has worked with newcomer, refugee and English Language Learner students and families, lifting up equity, social justice and voice in communities and our education systems.

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