"Myths of the Hill-People of Laos" - Kabnpauj Xiong


To cure a man of liver cancer, find
plenty of old, dried up roots.
Grind into powder and mix
with piping hot water. Make sure
that the concoction is bitter
and drunk in entirety.

Have a shaman guide the man’s
soul back to his body. Provide
the shaman with a blindfold and a string of bells.

This is how, when the doctor predicts
how long your father will continue to live,
to add an extra month or two:

Scoop out the yolk of a hard
boiled egg and replace it with a silver coin.
Wrap it in a cloth and rub
it over his body.

This is how to forget that death is permanent:

Do all your homework
and then ask for extra credit. Avoid
the hospital at all costs.

If the powdered roots remedy fails, bring
the man to an old woman.
Have her poke a needle in his fingers
and toes. This will draw out bad
blood and get rid of illness.

In the event that you feel compelled
to comfort a dying man,
hold his hands and pray for the next
shaky rising of chest in-between gasps.

Do not fall asleep on the last night.

If you have to say goodbye, this is how you begin:
This is how you say, I forgive you.


Kabnpauj Xiong is a junior at UW-Madison, currently majoring in English: Creative Writing with a certificate in Asian American Studies. This is his first time being published with UW Flash Fiction.