Kenji C. Liu
Dear Director, Environmental Protection Agency

A factory worker hides a plea for help

in your shoe and isn’t in the morning or evening news.

Which way are we playing,

whose rules? It would be nice if it wasn't possible.


This day is for you and I to stomp on like Americans.

Do you know what they say about us?

I’d like to live in a non-lethal economy. I dream

of an eagle on a dinner plate.


At the emporium, dried seahorses give us their ears.

We discuss mah jong and gentrification.

You're so not there. Colonial history is part of the difference.

Don’t do that to the memory of us.


You bring the impact statements home,

shred. Inside is a radio to wash cuts in.

There’s blood in our strawberries.

You’re no longer a sunset, but a 52-hertz whale.


Call out along the blue muscles of your throat,

greater than or equal to the distance between.

The species you like eat

sip small tea cups with pinkies raised like knives.


Is it necessary for psyches to be consistent?


The avenue is your national memory,

a garden of ghosts, of swollen bones,

wooden bullets and hairless, ribbed wounds.

We can't speak openly of this.


There’s an iceberg the size of Rhode Island,

and red water for penguins to circle in.

You pluck eyebrows and let them sip

the porcelain sink. Then the year bends towards fall.


The secretary of commerce is perched on a glacier.

Species speak, then flutter into iridescence

in his mouth. Careless razor blades.

When I try to remember their faces, they turn away.


The freeze blowing off the escarpment,

how many pay phones could be planted there?

Fountains of oil would be picturesque.

Whale viscera on the ice, the ice maker is broken, the treaty is broken.


You build your gilded house in the wake of its wake.

Found In Volume 44, No. 03
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Kenji C. Liu
About the Author

Kenji C. Liu's ( writing is in Los Angeles Review, Asian American Literary Review, Truthdig, The Collagist, Barrow Street Journal, CURA, RHINO, Split This Rock's poem of the week series, and several anthologies. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community of Writers at SV, he holds an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation and lives in Los Angeles.