Choeung Ek, Cambodia

Ghosts hover here,
haunt the tower of 5,000 skulls,
the field of bone fragments,
the pieces of blue cloth,
poking from bare ground.

They rise from unmarked graves
of teachers and shopkeepers
dragged from their work,
housewives shot on the street.
They mourn for the monks
murdered mid-chant,
the girls who were raped,
the boys badly beaten,
every toddler killed,
terrified and confused.

In this place, guides murmur lessons
of history and hope—
We can learn from the past,
perhaps.          Better to be kind
than kill.          Never repeat
those mistakes.

Yet the warm breeze gathers
these spirits and sighs, blows
over the seas to Congo, Sudan,
Myanmar and back to us.
It touches our brows,
our silence,
our grief.

Honorable mention in Wick Poetry Center's 2020 Peace Poem contest. © Susan Coultrap-McQuin. Published by the Academy of American Poets on January 28, 2020.