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 Anni Liu's "Misapprehension" and "Finding Fruit." We invite you to take a moment to read the other poems in this collection here.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Poetry Editor


When, seventeen years later, I return, I discover my father

walks faster than I can keep pace, knowing more than I do

about what time means and what distances we must

cross. Seeing him round the lake’s edge, as if alone, without

the anomaly of my presence, I want to ask him: Who

taught you to look at a bird? When did you first recognize me

as your own? The first time I lost him was in the outdoor

market when I took the hand of a man who was him

until he looked down with another face.

Now I stop on the path.

All the long minutes of my absence materialize, pulse

with each step he takes toward the rest of the world.

Who is abandoning whom?

Strangers pass around me. They to whom I have no obligation.

The dream of all those years in the states to go unnoticed,

to escape from my own life, turns out to be only a dream

to be here again.

Now the man that is him stops, too, and not finding

me, makes his way back through the crowd

toward where I wait.

When he sees me, who will I be?


Finding Fruit

There were fruit trees in Xi’an,
and there are probably some left
even now, though it’s hard to believe

with the smog and construction
and men motoring along the sidewalks
ripping out old ladies’ gold earrings

right from their ears. Lining the streets
of the Foreign Language University,
trees bore apricots and walnuts

for everyone to eat. Years later,
I found fruit in the Northeast Kingdom
of Vermont: ambushes of blue,

black, and elderberries that ripened
on the tongue. All fall of that year
I walked the crabapple highways

with a bag, lonely for sweetness.
I took all that I could hold, anticipating
pies, jams, and sauces from the mostly

sour and mealy flesh. Against my side
the apples jostled and rolled, heavy
as baoding balls, the kind my father spun

on slow, sun-dense mornings waiting
for me to wake, cradling them in his palm
until the metal warmed, the silver flashing.

Yes, as heavy and as sweet as that.



Anni Liu

Anni Liu is a writer, translator, and editor from the Chinese Northwest and the Midwestern United States. Her poems and translations are published or forthcoming in The Georgia Review, Two Lines, Pleaides, and Quarterly West, among others. She is currently working on a long essay about being an alien and learning how to walk on lakes.