Kuv Niam Hais Tias (My Mama Says) by Judy D. - 1st Place, Adult Category

Kuv niam hais tias[1] if you sit on a bag of rice,
Your child will be born without a butt hole.
If you have a sty, go look through the fence and say
Mob rwj muag daj xauj qhov vaj, mob rwj muag dev xauj qhov tsev[2]
Then go peer at the corner of the house and say again
Mob rwj muag daj xauj qhov vaj, mob rwj muag dev xauj qhov tsev
This will embarrass the sty, and it will leave.
If you say something you didn’t intend,
Like wishing death upon your siblings,
Pinch the words out of your heart and say
De pov tseg[3], de pov tseg
Until it is all gone.
Remember that basil smells good and
Mint has wrinkly leaves.
After you give birth, stay home for a month
Do not step foot inside another person’s house
You will upset the spirits at their door
If you don’t listen, when you’re old you will die a slow death
Tuag tsis tu sia[4].
Do not compliment another person’s baby
Dab tsov[5] will hear and he will come take that child away
Instead, say, your child smells like poop!
But we’re in America now. Dab tsov is scared of electricity.
When you call people in to eat, never say
Los noj mov au![6]
Instead, say, los phua taub hau![7]
You don’t want to invite cov dab tuag tshaib tuag nqhis[8] into your house
They will eat everything
And no matter how hard you work
You will never have enough money to feed your family
They will eat everything you earn.
Turn on the porch light at night
So the spirits that are passing by don’t visit.
But we go to church now
So none of that matters anymore
Except, basil smells good and
Mint has wrinkly leaves.

-- Judy D.


[1] My mama says
[2] Yellow stye, look through the fence; Dog stye, look at the corner of the house
[3] Pinch and throw away
[4] Die a slow death
[5] Tiger Spirit
[6] Come eat!
[7] Come crack heads open!
[8] Hungry and poor spirits