Aaron Caycedo-Kimura is a poet, painter, and cartoonist whose poetry has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, DMQ Review, Tule Review, Louisiana Literature, The Night Heron Barks, and elsewhere. Aaron earned his MFA in creative writing from Boston University and is a recipient of a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. With Ubasute, he won the 2020 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition.
I walk into the garage from side door sunlight ELO on my Walkman
my eyes dissolve the darkness to discover my parents locked
in a slow-dance embrace whispering to each other like lovers
but my parents aren’t lovers they’re Japanese never kiss hold hands
say I love you not even to me once I asked Mom if she loved me
she replied my mother and father never said it but I knew they did
my parents hear my shuffle separate like guilty teenagers she escapes
into the house he into the Ford opens the garage door I fumble
forget what I was looking for but all afternoon replay that dissonant chord
What’s Kept Alive
She crunches her walker
into the sea of pebbles
surrounding the stepping-stones,
tells me, This bush
with flowers is Japanese.
That one is too, but different.
I hover close behind, ready
with an outstretched arm
as if to give a blessing.
Pick that large weed
near the lantern—by the roots—
and throw it into the pail.
My father planned and planted
this garden fifty years ago—
hidden behind the fence
of their Santa Rosa tract home—
but he’s gone now.
She hires a hand to rake leaves,
prune branches once a month.
Soon she’ll be gone.
I’ll sell the house,
return to Connecticut.
A stranger will buy it,
become caretaker of the garden,
but won’t know that from their
San Francisco apartment
my father transported
the Japanese maple, cradled
in a small clay pot —
the momiji now guarding
the north corner—
and that my mother chided him
for bothering with a dying shrub.
The Hardest Part
The fire truck siren downstairs
raided the air of my mother's dreams.
She'd scream in her sleep, my father
told me, even after we married.
More than a decade past
the Second World War—for him,
American concentration camps,
for her, the firebombing of Tokyo—
they moved into a San Francisco
apartment that rented to Japs,
a one-bedroom walk-up above
the Post Street fire station.
They painted their bathroom black—
It was in style then—shelved
books, unboxed a new rice cooker,
watered a shrub of Japanese maple
potted for their future garden.
When the station got a call
in the middle of the night, the rumble
of the overhead door crumbled into the wreck
that was once her home. Swirling lights
flashed ancient trees into flames
through the thin silk curtains of her eyelids.
No warning, no drill, no cover.
My father stilled her body,
his broad hand on her shoulder or hip
as they lay in the dark listening
to the slowing of her breath.
The hardest part of those nights,
he said, was waiting—
sometimes hours—for the truck
and the men to come back.
Family Anthem: DMQ Review
What’s Kept Alive / The Hardest Part: