Poetry Archive

Human Decency

A tiny bug scurries across the counter,
and my hand slams down automatically.
No barrier between its death and my skin.
I barely felt it.
Afterwards, running my hand under water,
I don’t even use soap.
I know that I’ll do it again, and again,
and again. Those small, moving bodies
evoking a nearly instantaneous response.
I track down where they live,
their secret passages, so I know
where exactly to place the poison.
My sons shout, Bug! Bug!
because they know me—
merciless eradicator,
matter-of-fact killer,
steady stalker of infestation,
grim keeper of a certain, pristine life.
They summon me
to take care of these
necessitated deaths.
So confident are they
in their own
position of safety.

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Filed under: Poetry Archive


Pichchenda Bao is a Cambodian American writer and poet, infant survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, daughter of refugees, and feminist stay-at-home mother in New York City. Her work has been published by the Adirondack Review, New Ohio Review, great weather for MEDIA, Newtown Literary and elsewhere. She was a 2019 emerging writer fellow at the Aspen Words summer writers’ conference, and is an incoming fellow at the Kundiman writers’ retreat. She writes sporadically on her blog: thisliferecord.blogspot.com and tweets @sreypichch