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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

To Spring

In our last moments of spring, we’re making room for both reflection and movement forward. I invited this month’s guest poets to share some poetry on the broad themes of “spring” in terms of reflecting, looking ahead, making strides, leaving, leaping—whether with joy or exasperation or anything in between. We’re excited to honor the end of this transitional season with the rush of wonderful poetry by San Francisco-based professor, Brynn Saito, and Dorchester, MA-based writer and strategist, Tamiko Beyer. Enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Brynn Saito is the author of two books of poetry, Power Made Us Swoon (2016) and The Palace of Contemplating Departure (2013), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press, and finalist for the Northern California Book Award. She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace (chapbook, Diode Editions). Brynn is a recipient of the Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship and a California State Library Civil Liberties grant. Originally from Fresno, CA, Brynn teaches and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Things I Never Knew I Loved

            after Nazim Hikmet
            with a line by Staceyann Chin
            for The American Bookbinders Museum and Lantern Review
            for my mother

It’s April 16, 2016.
I never knew I loved the book—
its careful spine and springtime stitch, the tercet’s weaving
of memory and blood—this love.

If the body is a book, then I am open.
If the body is a book, then pain is the narrator.

I’m on my back in the night again and sweating and imagining angels.
I never knew I loved angels.
I never knew I loved my body.
The angels pull red ribbons of pain from me—
the angels circle—
the angels whisper: remember your childhood—
how you loved the soil
and dancing, how you dug your toes into the earth of the summer garden,
your father planting and your mother near.

I never knew I loved the garden
and sky
and this city, though it destroys me
and these streets, though they deceive me
and this windswept unpaced beauty, though where is a place for poetry?

In the night, I am everything I fear.
In the morning, I am all I ever want to be:
a girl, flying,
a sprawling orchard under dawn-pink skies—
I never knew I loved blooming.
I never knew I loved
the orchards of my youth
and the boy who died there by his own hand
and the boys from my hometown

who rushed to war
the way they rushed off summer decks, flinging their bodies
into the greatest bodies of water—
their limbs unpinned, our fates unwritten.
Their limbs: unstitched and wild—like ribbons of light.

* This poem is copyrighted by Brynn Saito (2017)


* * * * *

Tamiko Beyer is the author of We Come Elemental (Alice James Books, winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist) and the chapbook bough breaks (Meritage Press). Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, The Volta, Dusie, and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from Kundiman, Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, Hedgebrook, and Washington University in St. Louis where she received her M.F.A. in creative writing. She is a social justice communications writer and strategist who spends her days writing truth to power. She lives in Dorchester, MA. 

Tankas for what comes together

Marsh grass feathers at
river’s curve—great blue heron,
eagle. In the morning
narrative of our walk, what
comes together is a feeling.

We are people,
the dog, the birds. We all emerge
from sleep, nestled
into each other and that
is the best way of waking.

At the seashore, wind
almost lift our spindrift bodies
sand scrapes at our skin.
Let that sleek seal beat back the waves:
thunder amasses in cloud

I do not believe
in the failure of caring
for each other. How
can I when you, cascading
wave, accumulate action?

We run the tactic,
defy abandonment, singe
the blacked-out papers.
The sleek edge is not enough:
we must find the right cut. Let’s

say the water
again. The tide’s pattern and
the rising sound.
The world goes forward
in need of our outrage.

Words float from mouth
to ear. Mine full of smoke and gin
songs. What begins in cold
clarity wavers when you follow
one star to the constellation

best seen from the corner
of the eyes. Inside your lit
house: bite of endive,
radish, moon. Your lip cracks, sweet
curves, like to like we bleed.

* This poem is copyrighted by Tamiko Beyer (2016)


© 2017 Brynn Saito; 2016 Tamiko Beyer

Brynn Saito Nikkei Uncovered poem poet poetry spring Tamiko Beyer tanka traci kato-kiriyama

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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