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When Everything Was Everything

I interrupted my class when I walked in, returned from an ESL session.

Mr. Smith made everyone read out loud, stopping when they want to.

No one ever reads more than three sentences

from Charlotte’s Web.

They giggled and snickered on my turn.

That day, I read two chapters without stopping to breathe.

The snickering, ridiculing, and ESL sessions stopped after that.

Also printed in When Everything was Everything by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay.

© 2018 by Full Circle Publishing LLC Used by permission.

Poem: SAYMOUKDA DUANGPHOUXAY VONGSAY is a Lao American poet, playwright, and cultural producer whose work focuses on creating spaces for refugee voices. Her plays have been presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Theater Mu. She is an Aspen Ideas Bush Foundation scholar, a Playwrights Center fellow, a Loft Literary Center fellow, and a recipient of grants from the Jerome Foundation, Knight Foundation,and Forecast Public Art.

Art: KUAB MAIV YAJ, or Koua Mai Yang, is a Hmong American artist based in Saint Paul and an MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Yaj’s studio work investigates recurring themes surrounding bicultural identity, home, female experiences, and Hmong patriarchy. Working representationally from Western and Hmong notions of art, she makes meaning of the Hmong identity in America today. The heart of her work is to hold space for the possibilities of addressing the legacy of statelessness, wars, invisibility, and the layers of oppression in Hmong female experiences.


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