Curated for National Poetry Month as part of "When did you first recognize me as your own?: A Folio of Undocupoets Fellows"
April 16, 2020

Image Credit: "Freedom" by Luz Adriana Villa via Flickr

This April, to recognize and honor National Poetry Month, we curated a folio of poems by four Asian American Undocupoets Fellows. This page features Jan-Henry Gray's "June at Ocean Beach." We invite you to take a moment to read the other poems in this collection here.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor

June at Ocean Beach

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers two "Free Fishing Days" per year to encourage new and lapsed anglers to participate in this great outdoor tradition. On these dates, normal licensing requirements are waived. Free Fishing Days for 2020 are Saturday, July 4, and Saturday, Sep. 5.  

I want an excuse to buy flowers,
cut and standing in water
near the lettuces, radishes,
carrots and their carrot tops
laying like hair on the shoulders
of the shopping cart, the cucumber’s
skin is covered in new dew—cut,
they smell like nothing, watery nothings.
The ribs of collard greens are where
the nutrients are so don’t throw them
out, no. Keep what’s been offered up
to stave off what you fear longs
for your body: pores that are open
to what-have-you, forget-me-nots,
how could you—what did you tell me?
I was asleep, near sleep, drowsy,
drowning in the big sun’s light,
ocean’s oyster waves, a vision of a man
holding an old fishing pole surrounded
by other poles, their handles dug
into the sand. When he pulls them out
—gourd, carrot, radish—the sand
will replace the space, the end
of the wave will erase what was,
a closing in, a closeness, dusk.
You ask what you ask while
the dogs sniff what they sniff.
They consider your question
and look in the direction
of your mouth, still moving.


Jan-Henry Gray

Jan-Henry Gray is the author of Documents, chosen by D. A. Powell as the winner of BOA Editions’ A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. His chapbook, Selected Emails, is out from speCt! and his writing is published in Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, The Margins, and more. He’s received the inaugural Undocupoets Fellowship and awards from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.