Poem of the Week | January 16, 2023

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Of the Country I Left” by Kyoko Uchida.

Kyoko Uchida was born in Hiroshima, Japan and raised there and in the United States and Canada. Her poetry, prose, and translations have appeared in journals in the U.S., France, and Australia, including Boston Review, Brooklyn Review, The Georgia Review, Nimrod, and Prairie Schooner; her poetry collection Elsewhere was published by Texas Tech University Press in 2012. She works for a nonprofit organization in New York City.


Of the Country I Left

Of the country I left
I have no memory,
only of the one I returned to:
jeweled seashells in the kindergarten sandbox,
a persimmon like a palmful of sun.

Of the place I left again
I have no memory but of being told
at each new school that it was where
no tree would grow for seventy-five years
though I’d run through fields thick with clover,
sunflowers bright as clock faces.

Of each city I arrived in
I have no memory but of
what I missed upon leaving:
ooze of warm asphalt between bare toes,
pine-needle rains, first snow squeaking
like accents hard-earned and lost.

Of the places I have lost
I have no memory but those
I weave from my own hair,
names of streets I’ve stood waiting on,
the fuzz of green almonds, long-expired tea.

This is where I live now:
a country of one.


Author’s Note

I spent my childhood shuttling back and forth between Hiroshima and several U.S. and Canadian cities, and I have since had the privilege of living in a couple of other countries. Each new landscape I encounter redefines the last, both internally and externally. The landscape I’ve just come from becomes redefined not only by my individual perception and memory but also by those of my new neighbors, while I myself am redefined in their eyes by where I’ve come from. It seems to me that we each carry within us vast landscapes that do not necessarily correspond to others’ maps—including places that are lost to us, places to which we belong even when they do not belong to us.