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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Sometimes I Wake Up

Sometimes, I wake up and I’m on an island in the Mekong River.

The night before, I saw a shooting star for the first time,

And fell in love with a glittering Thai sky.


I wake up and I’m lying under a mosquito net,

A film of sweat has formed above my lip,

My body cooling itself as I toss and turn and dream deeply.

Sometimes I wake up and I’m back home, I’m in my bed.

I stare at my ceiling and remember the exact shade of white paint,

My sheets smell like me, my room in its order from when I last saw it.


I want to cry when I remember my grandma is gone,

I laugh when local villagers and I can’t understand each other,

I sing when I hold a baby just born, he can’t understand my words anyway.

I wake up again and again, and sometimes my heart is in an Asian city I have never been to.

Sometimes, I’m back in a Los Angeles beach and the weather is breezy and I am falling asleep in the sand,

The sounds of the ocean moving through my skin.

Yesterday I was an eighteen-year-old girl confidently traveling the world,

And today I am four years old,

Looking around in confusion in place different than I know.

Sometimes I wake up and I feel so happy

At the peace in the air and the sounds of birds chirping,

And at my memories of my family and friends.

I am awake, both here and there, both now and then,

My spirit pulsing with both worlds,

Far away and close.