Poem of the Week, by Anni Liu

Click here for all the details of my brand-new January Write Together week-long session. I’d love to see you in the Zoom room.

This past week I deleted a couple of no-longer-functional emails from my Poem of the Week subscriber list. As I was scrolling through the long list, addresses of passed-on friends flashed up – oh look, my darling Zdrazil, there you are. And Jay Hopler, the poet whose gorgeous poems I discovered just before he died. And Melissa Bank, beautiful human, beautiful writer.

Everyone on the list stays there unless an official bounceback flings itself my way, full of incomprehensible code that to my non-coding eye means only one thing: this person will never again open an email from you, Alison. Until that day comes, I send the poems out into the ether, because who am I to decide how and when and where a poem will find its way home?

Lake of the Isles, by Anni Liu

            January 2021

 After my grandfather died
I waited for him to arrive
in Minneapolis. Daily
I walked across the water
wearing my black armband
sewn from scraps, ears trained for his voice.
Migration teaches death, deprives us
of the language of the body,
prepares us for other kinds of crossings,
the endless innovations of grief.
Forty-nine days, forty-nine nights—
I carried his name and a stick
of incense to the island in the lake
and with fellow mourners watched
as it burned a hole in the ice.
He did not give a sign, but I imagined him
traveling against the grain
of the earth, declining time.
Spirit like wind, roughening
whatever of ourselves we leave bare.
When he was alive, he and I
rarely spoke. But his was a great
and courageous tenderness.
Now we are beyond the barriers
of embodied speech, of nationhood.
Someday, I will join him there in the country
of our collective future, knowing
that loneliness is just an ongoing
relationship with time.
It is such a strange thing, to be
continuous. In the weeks without snow,
what do the small creatures drink?

Click here for more information about Anni Liu.


Words by Winter: my podcast


  1. Cathy Lentes · November 19

    Thank you, Alison, for all your poems, but this one came, perhaps, just when needed for many, for me.

    My 94 year old father left this world on Wednesday. I was with him, a sacred privilege. But I want to tell him everything that’s been happening. Get his advice. How do I reach him now? How do I hear his voice?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alisonmcghee · November 29

    Oh Cathy. I am so, so sorry to hear this. Can you talk to him anyway (that’s what I do…I talk out loud to them)? I hope you feel his presence anyway. XO


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