Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

Kenji C. Liu

A Son Writes Back 1

Stay on course crossing borders.
Uphold ethics where you dwell;
foreign lands will become home.
Recall your parents' teachings;
every day burn fragrance to
venerate your ancestors.
Heaven bless the Liu household.
Young men, prosper together.

After you, we crossed many
borders. Eight hundred sun turns.
At one point, a pegasus
landed two boys in Taiwan.
Mā/mǎ carried babies but
boys carried our name, the first
compass. This bypass is our
family, is our paddle.

We live with barbarians
who know not what they do. But
the three principles twist us
into boulders out of sand.
We crease and knot, compress and
fold. A flower pressed inside
an encyclopedia
doesn't learn a single thing.

Issue 2 | Winter 2011

Eighteen Liu generations
from the mountains of Taiwan
to the malls of New Jersey.
My papers state "medium"
complexion, the threat level
to their city on a hill.
Our nest rests uneasily,
chainsaw on an empty branch.

Beautiful blues guitar place
you hold our first bold ashes
with salt-sodden lilac seas,
steel-ribbed paper palaces,
lulling my man heart to break.
You set my rimed house adrift
repeatedly in the tides
crying like hands in old silk.

The tired front of manhood,
motley and unforgiving.
I seek its soon destruction.
We'll make a new heaven from
long miles of broken fences,
humble pigeon feathers, and
afternoon light in a jar.
A hundred lifetimes, falling.

1 The first stanza is a translation of a qilu poem written by my ancestor Guang-Chuon Gong 760 years ago. It was translated by my father, Yuh-Lang Liu, and me. The proceeding stanzas are my personal respones to this qilu, echoing its form of 8 lines, 7 syllables per line.

Untitled Document