Aaron Caycedo-Kimura

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the poet

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. 

the poems

Family Anthem

00:00 / 01:11

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

00:00 / 01:11

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 lanternby 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

00:00 / 01:50

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 Warfor 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.

Publishing credits

Family Anthem: DMQ Review

What’s Kept Alive: Hartford Courant

The Hardest Part: Hartford Courant

© original authors 2021

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