This poem is part of our 2023 Southeast Asian New Year mini-series. While Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora celebrated the Lunar New Year earlier this year, diaCRITICS acknowledges that many other Southeast Asian countries follow a different tradition. This includes Thingyan from Myanmar, Pi Mai from Laos, Songkran from Thailand, and Choul Chnam Thmey or Moha Sankranti from Cambodia. In this mini-series, writers reflect on the meaning of their new year.

Khmer New Year 2011 – Atlanta Buddhist Temple. Photo by Sam Sith. (CC BY 2.0)

I remember the summer of the new year
I am suddenly brought back to when I was 10
When the air smells better, crisp
When I run back into my house
chugging down streams of water
My panting breath hallow against the paper coup
loud burbles of the streams as they travel along their bed
Bubbling over rocks and branches
I let out a final exasperated breath before running back to play
I now wake up, 16, I chase for that similar feeling
Laughter for no cause
Birds chirping to my greetings of good morning
I remember the fall of new year, careless warm courtship
the cold air carries breaths of unspoken words between us
autumn beauty reddens my cheeks, swells my eyes, cracks my lips
my eyes follow the strings of smoke by the incense
It tickles my nose
decorative glistening food laid in front of my ancestors’ portraits
¨Call everyone to eat, koun. Come, come, while the food is warm¨
I gingerly place the incense on to the food with hopeful whispers of great health and prosperity
I was careful in not letting the ashes burn me
the bridges I’ve burn have already left a lingering scent
I left my number line dead
so the ghosts won’t dial me at midnight in their desperate hunger for warmth.

My name is Nophea Vicheth. I am a sixteen-year-old first-generation writer, inspired on finding more depth and inspiration within my cultural root.


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