Friday, May 3, 2013

Poem of the Week: Kenji Liu

Kenji Liu          

Elegy for Kimani Gray  

16 Years Old

Sharp tenure of boots in this callow country
     grown from open skulls. A raw harvest of bullet casings

arranged in a perfect ring around you,
     ruthless departure gate from your too-short life.

Old bricks laid on mud, on ancient bones.
     A crooked wall that slithers in all directions, into all of us.

In the subway station, your hymnal of hail,
     audible through the sagging window pane, and

the hushed light of a penny keeping to itself,
     away from the wicked maledictions of trigger fingers.

This ending is the middle, halfway between genesis
     and the great throwing open of all our secretive vaults.

Bullet one, entitled to flesh and the sin of pride.
      Two more in thrall to the scent of a black body. With orders

from their gods, they plow your emptied land.
     Still more, cloaked against simple pleas of muscle and bone.

The last bullet, addicted to death's sharp edges,
      cracks your final seal. Your murder, a cage we have seen before.

No more. Hold every lucid moment close, so that
     its delicate turbulence does not escape your accounting.

Those who have mispledged to protect will never
     own this moment. It is yours alone, whether they pierce

mesh with metal or lies. You are not theirs.
     only yours alone. Your bright eyes open again and again,

fireflies in their factory of dark rituals. Traveling
      the undiscovered country, you are : finally : every last breath.  

-Kenji Liu   

Used by permission.

Kenji Liu  ( is a 1.5-generation immigrant from New Jersey. A Pushcart Prize nominee and first runner-up finalist for the Poets & Writers 2013 California Writers Exchange Award, his writing has appeared in numerous journals, including RHINO Poetry, Generations, Eye to the Telescope, Ozone Park Journal, Kweli Journal, Doveglion Press, Best American Poetry's blog, Kartika Review, Lantern Review, and others. His poetry chapbook You Left Without Your Shoes was nominated for a 2009 California Book Award. A three-time VONA alum and recipient of residencies at Djerassi and Blue Mountain Center, he is working on a full-length poetry book. He lives in California.
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