May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

Our guest editor is Su Hwang, author of Lyricality’s Read Poetry 2020 selection Bodega.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is the author of two poetry collections and two chapbooks, most recently Interrogation Room (White Pine Press, 2018) mentioned in The New York Timesand the recipient of the 2020 Association of Asian American Studies Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in Creative Writing: Poetry. She is also the editor of Multiverse: New and Selected Poems (White Pine Press, 2020) by Bulgarian-German poet TzvetaSofronieva and a co-translator with Dr. Johanna Domokos of Sami poet Niillas Holmberg’s Underfoot (White Pine Press, forthcoming 2022. Her most recent awards include a Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship and a Masterson Fellowship from the Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma. Currently, she is Professor of English at St. Olaf College and poetry editor at AGNI.

Su Hwang selects “Authenticity” by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs

Brother, you poured water into my cupped hands

Your cool slipped through efforts to grasp

What gratitude I felt for this

You understood me to be so named after

As were your ancestors Cash to a cotton farmer

Bills of sale stored in his safety box

Receipts for adoption stuffed in tea canisters

I doubted resembled your irretrievable history

Yet you insisted amnesia drove us both to rummage

To jimmy open basements, vaults of

Microfiche you unreeled to scan for plantation fields in

Old Sussex County. I had none to speak of

“My all,” you said of dogwood trees, arid orchard grass

Where your forefathers & foremothers were buried

“Not my home,” you said, yet you could return to it

You said, “I returned from it. I could go on”

You board first-class, luggage bulging with equipment

To field across all of Africa, magnetic compass in hand

How you envied my finger on a map of Asia

Korea. “Your there,” you called it

That someone something once upon a time


“Authenticity” by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs from PAPER PAVILION, White Pine Press ©2007. Appears here with permission of the author.