I had not met Kim-An Lieberman in real life, in person, had not even met her poems, although I remember the community’s grief at her person. This week, I had the bittersweet honor and ravage of making that acquaintance in her book In Orbit, from Blue Begonia Press.
How deftly she has woven story and image, braided past and present, family history and the history a war leaves behind, its scars seen and unseen, as in the lyrical and desperate “Unearthing Song.”
And then the final section–her clear, tender, ruthless telling of her journey through cancer. It is unimaginable, as when she describes coming home to her children:
…Their hair vining everywhere. They talk in Technicolor
and their eyes are feverish bright. I marvel over their suddenness
like I marveled at their birth, a full and breathing human weight
gifted into my arms, where I held nothing a mere moment before.
And yet, she writes this. She takes us to a place we hope we never have to go. We are left heartbroken and grateful for her strength, her bravery, and her wonderful gift with language.
I found some of my favorite images in “The Immigrant Gardens”:
The Immigrant Gardens
On the slopes of First Hill, on the banks of the freeway,
at the corner of Maynard and Main,
the immigrant gardens are blooming.
Daikon and bitter melon, shiso and snow pea,
bamboo shoots rising through layers of clay.
In the static buzz of the cicada streetlamps,
under the tarp of the storm-furrowed sky,
bok choy bursts yellow, peppers clatter down the vine.
Ghostlines of Japantown snake along wet cement
past the boarded-up bathhouse, the tattered hotel.
Faded letters on brick brag Fireproof Rooms 50 Cents,
and a dragon twines red up a telephone pole.
Trace the city’s glass ridges from your split-board bench,
watch the cars in I-5 burn a river of light.
All around you, brambles and grasses and roots
in a thousand different languages, flowering.