All the Things That Make Heaven and Earth
The soil, the livestock, our memories of the war,everything flourishing before it vanishes—breathsevered clean from our bodies, our shadowssunset-deepened and woven with dirt,whole family trees succumbing to the blight.My grandfather returns to life, back stillbent by history’s quiet yoke, his memoriesof camp forever decaying into the tiny gardenbehind my house where my father’s deathis the soil, where silence blossoms nowall year round. Or the soil is my grandfathereating darkness, the spectral memory of campthat feasts upon my father and his father,me and my son. There are no such thingsas ghosts—I tell my son this every eveningas he gazes up the dark stairwell towards his room.What will be waiting for us when my boyis old enough to ask where he comes from?What will we find when our memories of campfinally molder back into the ground?
“All the Things That Make Heaven and Earth” from THIS IS HOW THE BONE SINGS: by W. Todd Kaneko.
First Published in Issue 23 of Hunger Mountain
Published by Black Lawrence Press 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by W. Todd Kaneko
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
W. Todd Kaneko is the author of This Is How the Bone Sings (Black Lawrence Press 2020) and The Dead Wrestler Elegies (New Michigan Press 2021), and co-author with Amorak Huey of Poetry: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury Academic 2018) and Slash / Slash (Diode Editions 2021). His work has appeared in Poetry, Alaskan Quarterly Review, The Normal School, Barrelhouse, DIAGRAM, and many other places. A Kundiman Fellow, he lives with his family in Grand Rapids, Michigan and teaches at Grand Valley State University.
"In Kaneko’s highly-anticipated This Is How the Bone Sings, we are introduced to characters mythical and marvelous in landscapes where '…hands can be stealthy, lovesick foxes or tiny owls who doubt the night.' These are much-needed poems of unapologetic tenderness and talent—in other words, this collection does the near-impossible: it points us towards love even if what we know of this world doesn’t."
—Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Oceanic and Lucky Fish
"In a lyric collection of profound beauty and grief, This Is How the Bone Sings by W. Todd Kaneko carries the pulse of ancient lament through the boneyards of war and unspeakable trauma. Kaneko’s powerful songs of ancestral fatherhood illuminate the haunting melancholia of exile and internment: 'When I dream, I see an open meadow / from my father’s living room / windows, the house drained of color / except for the dissolve of night, / a splash of fire, an angel’s mane / untamed for the first time / since suffering a gash of spurs.' The graceful poems hover in the air like elusive promises of hope overshadowed by heartache, loss, and betrayal persisting long after a time of war: 'We believe not in ghosts but in flowers, / in the shape of a blossom that appears / every spring and whispers that word / our family uses in the place of ghosts.” In a world at once beautiful and grotesque, the poet must “hew an orchard out of the night' as a space of survival. This Is How the Bone Sings reminds us to share our tales of generational trauma and topography—shaping our individual and collective memories — in place of forgotten histories."
—Karen An-hwei Lee, author of Phyla of Joy and The Maze of Transparencies