Letter to Myself as a Newborn
by Kenji Liu
Thirty-two years ago. 4:12 pm. A forest, river and hospital.
I look him in the eyes. Between us, an engineer and a housewife.
He steeps in his first tangerine afternoon, takes leave of ghosts.
I sit attentively, his introductory day of migration.
Document in my hands. Gold foil embossed. Baby and a bowl cut.
Even newborns have papers. A bureaucrat’s pen is an axe, is a wall.
Like the dead, he has a country but no shoes.
I try to remember what matters. What time will his feet become mine?
Down the street, a war temple built with stolen trees.
What is the opposite of yes when no is forbidden?
When his mouth opens, words jump in, then a book, then a flag.
I teach him to light a match, and search for my face in his.
From “You Left Without Your Shoes” –a chapbook by Kenji Liu, published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. This poem was also published in the Asian Pacific Islander literary journal Kartika Review. This poem was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.