“Close at Sea” and other poems by Peuo Tuy

Peuo Tuy is a 1.5 generation Khmer-American spoken word poet and educator from Lowell, Massachusetts and New York, New York. Her poetry collection, Khmer Girl (2014), is inspired by the traumas of her life, including her family escaping the killing fields of their native Cambodia and enduring the inequities of life as refugees in the United States of America. Peuo is a recipient of a Long Beach Arts Council grant, the Pushcart Prize Nominee for her poem Hasbro Neon Light Brights, and is a founding member of the Cambodian American Literary Arts Association located in Lowell, Massachusetts. Peuo was also selected for the Florida Literary Arts Coalition Writers’ Circuit 2018-2019 book tour, and awarded the Critical Refugees Studies Collective grant (2019). Her work has appeared in several online publications, anthologies and magazines. She has also appeared at Harvard Law School, Massachusetts State House, The Big Read/Miami Book Fair, the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival, New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as various junior high schools and high schools in the east coast. She received her Master of Arts degree in Education and is currently an English Language Learner teacher at an elementary school in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During her free time she loves to swim, do HIIT workouts, travel, watch movies and television shows, and devour dark chocolate cakes.


We Stay Tight and Close at Sea

Digging clams, we stand still, bend our knees
with our duck feet on the ocean’s floor.
Sand and gravel tickling our toes:
Feeling                                     oh so goooood,
with our sarongs lifted up to our thighs,
we make indigenous happy faces.

Digging snails, picking up all sorts of sizes,
black and stone-like peek through.
We giggle, waiting for them to peek again.
Grabbing with our bare hands,
we gathered hundreds.

Chasing crabs—tiny, medium, big ones.
As the tide recedes, we wait for them
to scurry back onto the ocean’s abode.
We walk quickly,
picking them up, they
bite our dark-bronze fingers.
We make funny, hurting faces.

In my dreams . . .

Every summer, we jump for emotional joy.
We always make indigenous joyous faces.
We can’t wait to go back to share memories
laughing, smiling.
We stay tight and close, never letting go of those good family times.


Waiting for the Morning Breakfast
(Etheree 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10)

Bite hurts
Fangs dig deep
Into her skin
She is petrified
Mak smears monkey balm on
She fears of Dengue Fever
Swallows white meds, hides under net
Sings herself to sleep, Khmer lalabyes,
Wakes up to loud roosters, and babaw kreung

(Babaw kreung: Cambodian rice porridge) 


Where Fat Matters

Chrougks in hashtags like playing tic-tac-toe
Mama in one segment of pound
Impregnated per three months
Babies suck breasts daily
Move into other
Side crying for
Pure breast milk
Mak sold

(Chrougks: pigs)