Amy Liu, First Place


Confessions from Forgotten Fields 

To the millions of individuals slaughtered, oppressed, and abused by the Khmer Rouge.
                                                    May you rest in power. 


I was sixteen years young when
I became orphan and widow and bearer of child.  
How could Pol Pot betray us? The war was over but another was brewing—
They lured us with porridge and cloaked us in black and told us to dig, so
every day I did so under the scorching sun with melancholic hands and closed eyes
because darkness superseded truth and I was         
tired of seeing dismembered bodies and skulls coated in soot.
But I must confess: when they turned their backs,  
I’d smuggle stalks of morning glory in my cotton scarf  
and whisper prayer to quench my thirst for—dare I say!—


Before they took mother away,
she told me bark water heals wounds, 
             so I fed it to the Earth.
But they caught me under the swooning moon!
So they hurled brother against chankiri tree and
made him repent for my compassion.
Oh, how my teardrops looked like trinkets in the rain!
That night I lassoed clouds and hurled rocks into tonlé sap
and planted krasang flower in a field of bones,
asking the celestial stars for
mercy and forgiveness and peace with petaled hands and throbbing stomach.
Sometimes in my dreams I remember inhaling smoke of rotten flesh            
and watching it dissolve into pale clouds suspended in smoggy sky.
And then I hear the fragmented land chanting
my name or the echoes of those blistering below—I cannot distinguish:
            Sons, daughters, I am ill and bruised. 
            I am weary of exploitation and massacre. 
            Sons, daughters, come home to me. 
            Come home. 
Shadows of broken bodies littered burning countryside
yet they called it burial, and bullet shells that pierce and kill were
worth more than the silhouette epoch of life. Yet motherland still sings:
            Sons, daughters, do not fret, for I am still here. 
            I am tired but I am still here, older than they will ever realize. 
            Sons, daughters, preserve me and come home to me. 
            Come home. 


I used to weave allegros out of withering blossoms tinged with elan
and catapult blue jays into tangerine skies, but
when temples became prisons and books became contraband,
lullabies became gunshots and I became refugee.
And the only difference between life and death became heartbeat.
This was no longer home. Somewhere an ocean away beyond the horizon in hillocks of pearl,
my heart opens like husks of corn, but where is salvation?
Come sing the hymn of reclamation with me, brother. Make me remember.


I was sixteen years young when they killed my family and forced us to forget. but how could I?
Lyrics of forbidden tussle dribbled from my hollow lips like grains of rice
as I confessed to village the most heinous crime—hope:  
for if we can have faith despite the past
and carve gods out of clay,
imagine the harmonies we can forge
with our minds.
Necks craned bodies carved—we seal the broken sky.
From our unbending hope, blush lotus blossoms.   

Amy Liu is a rising senior at Central Bucks High School South who is passionate about leading intersectional activism and raising awareness about neglected historical events via her poetry. She heard about the 2020 Writing for Peace Young Writers’ Poetry Contest from her English teacher, and winning this honor means the world because it reaffirms her future goals for when she reaches university, which are to major in sociology, linguistics, and possibly computer science to bring about large-scale positive change.

Amy Liu is from Warrington, Pennsylvania, United States. She won First Place in the Writing for Peace Young Writers Contest for her poem, for “Confessions from Forgotten Fields.”

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