Lisa Kwong
Covering Gabrielle

Childhood Fade in Litany

Behind the crisscross fence I thought home was a safe place.
The door’s lock loosened. I questioned home as a safe place.
Ngin Ngin1 took insulin shots and I looked away.

Ngin Ngin had a stroke. Home was no longer a safe place.

Main Street emptied of traffic and home was a safe place.
Smashed beer bottles kept littering the driveway.
Desperate men played lottery at Pak-n-Sak.

I watched her bones become landscape.
Ngin Ngin had another stroke. Home was not a safe place.

Girls cried at the strangeness of incense.
Smoke tendrils crawled down our throats.
My sister and I secretly went to the graveyard.

I questioned God. I asked why home was not a safe place.
Lightning squeezed my hand and home was a safe place.
I cried at Ngin Ngin’s tomb and used to think home was a safe place.

My grief grew a noose. I touched the letters on the tomb.


[1] paternal grandmother


Lisa Kwong, an MFA candidate in Poetry at Indiana University, coordinates the Fountain Square Poetry Series in Bloomington, Indiana. A native of Virginia, she is a two-time Frost Place scholarship recipient, Neal-Marshall Graduate Fellow, and winner of the Guy Lemmon Award in Public Writing and Asian Pacific American Inspiration Award at Indiana University. Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Appalachian Heritage, Pluck!: The Affrilachian Journal of Arts & Culture, and other journals.