“AT A YOUNG AGE, we are all taught the act of disappearing” writes Princess Moon. It’s impossible to envision Princess Moon as invisible. Standing on stages across New England, her soft but steady voice takes us decades into the past, to cultures both foreign and familiar, and we cannot help but be drawn in.
Princess Moon wants to empower people to “break their silence, to find the strength within themselves to share their stories, and to grow as human beings, because that’s what we all are after all: human.” As a poet, teaching artist, and community organizer, she is empowered and empowering others.
Refugees have settled in Gateway Cities for decades. The Cambodian genocide that killed a quarter of the country’s population drove her parents to Lowell, which became home to the nation’s second largest Cambodian-American population. The stories of survival and strength that refugees bring also come with trauma and pain.
Art is one of the most powerful ways to tell the stories of immigrants and refugees in Massachusetts. And we need those stories to be told. As an urban leader in today’s political environment, facilitating conversations about the important role that immigrants play is daunting yet urgent.
Artists provide depth, understanding, and healing that transcend our politics. Their contribution brings cultural vibrancy and economic strength, showcasing the complexity and diversity that paint our country’s landscape.
Princess Moon’s poetry is deeply influenced by her personal history and cultural heritage. We are grateful that she not only works on her craft, but that she multiplies it in so many ways. Her commitment to community work is inspiring, whether she is doing an artist teaching residency at the Boston Teachers Union School, or challenging stereotypes at Asian American Millennials Unite’s “Not Your Model Minority” event.
Princess Moon recently published her book of poetry, The Genocide’s Love Baby Learns to Sing. You can find more information about her work and her journey at www.princessmoon.xyz
dance, dance, dance
my parents met in the dark while
escaping the genocide.
they relied on the reflection of the pale moon
against their skin for guidance.
dad said that mom was glowing like an angel.
in the Cambodian culture,
an apsara is a goddess of earth and water.
they are heavenly dancers.
I’ve learned about them to know what it means
to be Cambodian.
I’ve read somewhere that
apsaras are often the wives of musicians.
I do not know if this is true,
but it makes a lot of sense to me.
back in the day,
dad used to be quite the charmer.
before the PTSD kicked in,
he was a ghostwriter for the Cambodian music label,
The Golden Butterfly.
if you listen closely to all the albums,
you’ll know exactly which songs are about mom.
she learned how to dance in a refugee camp
she’s never stopped practicing.
it’s been twenty years now
that dad’s been gone,
but you can still hear his voice ringing in the hallway.
a scratched vinyl on a broken record player,
all your favorite cassette tapes
s t r e t c h e d a p a r t
and thrown into the wood stove.
I catch my mom dancing in the kitchen.
the acoustics here are the best.
dad is a distant choke gargling in the sink.
I watch her move for him.
draped in gold
and heavy with
we are both in constant battles with our bodies.
mom tells me to stop dancing
in fear that I will become
my mother’s daughter:
a lover of men who leave after teaching us
how to move for them.
marry someone with the music not stitched into their skin.
or you’ll just end up like me.
a sad snake returning home
to its charmer.