"Ghosts" by Judith Dickerman-Nelson

The featured prose poem, "Ghosts," is from Judith Dickerman-Nelson's first collection, Spirits Dancing into Light. With the help of translator Boroeuth Brian Chen, each poem appears in English and Khmer. In her travels to Cambodia, Dickerman-Nelson studied Khmer, along with traditional Cambodian dance. There are two distinct sections of the book that are separated by place. The poem below is from the section titled "Lowell, Massachusetts."

Judith Dickerman-Nelson graduated from UMass Lowell and Emerson College. For many years, she worked at the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association in Lowell, Mass. Her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. Spirits Dancing into Light is available at <loompress.com>.



Ghosts

All over the city, workers climb into white vans that wait at curbs, hand their money to the drivers and do not argue about price because their factory pay comes in cash, in an envelope with barely enough loy to make rent. Some feel lucky the driver still stops for them. Just last week, new girls stepped in, filled the van with light chatter and laughter that made the driver smile. He might call them Own, as if they were his darlings, and when they leave the city, crossing bridges that span the Merrimack, other older ones--Ming and Om--are left looking out windows, like ghosts disappearing behind curtains.


Loy: (Long "o" sound) Money.
Own: (Long "o" sound like in bone) It can mean sweetheart, darling, or younger one.
Ming: (Rhymes with ring) Aunt or respectful greeting for any woman who would be your aunt's age.
Om: (Short "o" sound) Older relative, or respectful greeting for any older person.

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