Year Zero by Monica Sok

Winner of the 2015 PSA Chapbook Fellowship

Year Zero
by Monica Sok, selected and introduced by Marilyn Chin

Edition: 500 copies of the winning books were printed by the Prolific Group and designed by Gabriele Wilson, with covers by Ashley Goldberg.


In Year Zero, Monica Sok strikes a brilliant balance between rich remembrance and compassionate forgiveness. In clear song and soft assonance, ghostly remembrances of these times are spoken in the voices of ordinary people: mothers, aunties, fathers, uncles, girls selling tamarind, villagers going about their day in a lush tropical landscape of octopus trees and betel leaves.

—Marilyn Chin

The Radio Brings News

When I told lies, he says, the grass grew
so fast, it hid the whole field. The river
drowned the men with guns
and flowers wilted over their bodies
as their apology. But nothing happened
if the lie wasn’t good enough, like
when I said I love my country, I love
my people, I want to be a communist too.
And I’d raise my axe and hack the dirt
for my spoon of rice, for my cup of soup.
The river was clear, the river was fresh.
If only I was a log, if only I was a bird.
I would have freed myself before more.
Once a soldier asked me why I worked
so hard. His uniform nice, I lied to him
and pounded my fist to my chest and then
he left me alone. At night the radio
crackled and someone dimmed the volume
so fast, you might have thought
the sound of static was grass growing.
In the dark, I listened closely. I thought
I heard escape. I thought I heard Thailand.
I thought I heard the soldier asking me
if I wanted to run away with him
and five others tonight. If I wanted to eat.

All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

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