At last


My heart cried after mass collided with mass..
The blast deafening..
What’s left is flesh turned to ash..
Our own reckoning..
When can we scream at last at last!
But the wars never cease to be ending..
In streets and blocks..
In countries in locks..
In mass and mosques..
In masks..
beneath the cloth..
For causes forgotten long before we ever remembered if we ever had cause..
So this is a cry to the forgotten and lost..
For the ones rotten and gone..
buried beneath stone and rubble..
Where gun powder meets metal..
Where the power of the sun is held and wielded by men who claim to be God’s sons..
But none held truth..
Only lies twisted through the tongues of snakes forked to hiss out venom..
So you tell him..
Why his mother and father is gone..
Why his sisters and brothers isn’t home..
Why he’s alone in a world too cold to care if he’s warm..
So I’m storming these walls..
Refracting light in spite of being born in the dark..
Hark the ravens call..
Witness how angels fall..
See how we strangle and dangle struggling to walk..
While some voices struggle to talk..
You see, My heart cried after mass collided with mass..
The blast deafening..
What’s left is flesh turned to ash..
Our own reckoning..
When can we scream at last at last!
when can we scream at last at last..


Kosal Khiev

Kosal Khiev is a poet, tattoo artist, and survivor of the US prison system. Born in a Thai refugee camp, Kosal’s family fled to the U.S in 1981. Kosal’s family left the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge war for the promise of peace and prosperity in America. Instead of the American dream, Kosal’s family lived in grim public housing with scarce social services. Kosal admits to making poor choices as a teenager that led him into more violence, poverty, and eventually prison. At the age of 16, Kosal was arrested in a gang fight and charged with attempted murder. Kosal was tried as an adult and sentenced to 16 years in a state penitentiary. While serving 14 years in prison he discovered spoken word poetry from a former Vietnam War veteran. Spoken word became his creative channel to tell his own story and transform his anger, regrets, and experiences into a poetic art form. Upon release in 2011, the U.S. government deported him to Cambodia, a country he had never been. Since his arrival, Kosal has used poetry to uplift his situation, with compelling performances at NERD night, The Body Open Mic series, and Mao’s. Kosal has also been selected as the first artist-in-residence with Studio Revolt, a new media lab based in Phnom Penh, where he is collaborating on “Spoken Kosal: Verses in Exile,” a series of short films featuring his poetry. He cites Rainer Maria Rilke, Etheridge Knight, Tupac, and Eminem as some of his favorite poets. He has additionally lectured at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on the topic of US immigration and its juvenile detention system. He hopes one day the U.S. will repeal the unjust deportation law so that families can reunite. Until then, Kosal lives as an exiled American in Phnom Penh where he continues to share his story and art at open mics, universities, and public stages.

Photograph by Tori Green

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