National Poetry Month Day 1: Kenji C. Liu





When I cough during the pandemic

I am without a doubt my particular body / suggestive of
a rabid bat biting a wild boar biting a chicken

bloody. Bystanders fortify behind walls of toilet paper / enact
dreams of an uncrossable national enclosure. My body

gets killed off before the (white male) star / I am a repository
for his panic. His body (though just as animal) makes small sad

noises. In the finale, my body dies so that his can realize / its

Fanged, my body rises from death, licks that bloody chicken / wraps
itself in a murmuration of vapor and droplets. Where I go

also goes centuries of institutionalized innuendo. The star runs
for his life so my body runs too / stumbles / reorients at something

lovely beyond the ruin though we are each an unnatural self / a headless
-ness marching with tiny flag and cocktail umbrella. We bodies

are in the wet market, exposed to the bureaucracy of ghosts
unable to touch or return touch. Each of us / our own sick

country. I believe in ghosts because my body is a host
for their poems. Each day, they write me / a new—

Photograph of Kenji Liu by Maya Washington.

Kenji C. Liu is author of Monsters I Have Been (Alice James Books, 2019) and Map of an Onion, national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize (Inlandia Institute). His poetry is in numerous journals, anthologies, magazines, and two chapbooks, Craters: A Field Guide (2017) and You Left Without Your Shoes (2009). An alumnus of Kundiman, VONA/Voices, the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community of Writers, he lives in Los Ángeles where he is a lecturer at UCLA and Occidental College. More from this author →