Self-Portrait in Siem Reap

The French chef says, Try the foie gras, it’s very good.

So I treat myself to the liver of a force-fed goose.


Give it to me on a crostini with black currant!

In America, I don’t get to do this sort of rich-people thing.


The waiter tells me he was a translator for Angelina Jolie,

saw her roll up her skirt and walk into a river. Oh my gosh,


he says. She didn’t have to do that. Cars zoom across from me,

motorbikes too. Kicked-up dust coats my food,


my face. The family next door having dinner at their shop,

they wonder at me sitting so fancy on a restaurant patio


alone and if I’ll be okay, am I enjoying my foreign food

across from the bar where locals play pool. Actually,


they want to know if I’m Khmer or not.

My table covered in white, fine dining in Siem Reap.


Look at me get up when the waiter comes out with water,

I’m heading for the bathroom past the chef––Are you okay?


––vomiting on my shoes before I reach the toilet.

The steak is rare. Was it the pollution? Will you write a good review?


It was the foie gras, Pierre! Shut up!

I’d rather help an orphan-girl carrying her sister,


at least she’d lie to me on Pub Street, I don’t want money,

I don’t want money. I want powdered milk.

Bibliographical info

Monica Sok "Self-Portrait in Siem Reap" from A Nail the Evening Hangs On. Copyright © 2020 by Monica Sok.

Source: A Nail the Evening Hangs On (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)

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