Kenji C. Liu

Search History

         I chase their bright twenties
and the steeple of their youth.

The shrine folds in—a factory of small wings

Zoom and inhale the traces of their hajimemashite
in tides of fish, rain, traffic.

      The route he swims—from colony to metropole,
      through dust of sugar and camphor.

           The church camping trip—he makes eyes
           at a girl—who later marries her god.

                    The night where he finally sees her
                    street view of their first stroll after Sunday mass
           hands polite as warm summer rain.

How she comes to love him—country boy rising from the edge
of her father’s erstwhile empire, into its heart.

          My eyes try to find them—columns of persistence
                    scrolling through the underbrush.

                           My shadow, a kaiju on their map.
                           Their welcome is uncertain.

                    I translate this search
                    between my family’s four languages—trying

          not to lose
                    the feathered details
          of their tiny, hand-drawn hearts.

“Search History” by Kenji C. Liu (from Map of an Onion), “Sigh by the Sea” by Bitter Party

Kenji LiuKenji C. Liu is author of Map of an Onion, national winner of the Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. Among other places, his poetry appears in American Poetry Review, Action Yes!, Asian American Literary Review, Split This Rock’s poem of the week series, anthologies, and a chapbook, You Left Without Your Shoes. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi, and the Community of Writers. 




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