“On the Names of Invasive Beauty as Naturalization” by Karen An-hwei Lee


On the Names of Invasive Beauty as Naturalization

Jagged tussock of seed, razored fire-fountain,
the hair-length awn of burnished gold, needle
finished with a silk-smooth pod called a lemma
tethered in the sand, germinating on air-bright
silica, a corona or miniature seed-crown latches
to my sleeve as I thin the rampant vine-runners
under the avocado. Burr of sun-kissed spikelet,
part hook, part sail, ornamental Nassella species,
a renowned invasive beauty, part foil-kite, part
switchblade, angled spawn of drought-resistant
angels settled on bougainvillea glow-torches,
in the fissures of decomposed snow-granite,
dormant seed-bank with a mission to invest
without usury, without a return of premium —
dear imported kin, do forgive our xenophobia
against our heat-loving, wire-grass beauties —
rather, let us all endure as naturalized migrants
in this incendiary history of exclusion. A wind
lifts tufted feathergrass to a sloped flagstone
terrace edged by salt river rock, where we settle
with minimal demand on the indigenous scape.


Karen An-hwei Lee

Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award. She authored a novel, Sonata in K (Ellipsis, 2017). Lee also wrote two chapbooks, God’s One Hundred Promises (Swan Scythe, 2002) and What the Sea Earns for a Living (Quaci Press, 2014). Her book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora: Literary Transnationalism and Translingual Migrations (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in literary journals such as The American Poet, Poetry Magazine, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery, Journal of Feminist Studies & Religion, Iowa Review, and Columbia Poetry Review and was recognized by the Prairie Schooner / Glenna Luschei Award. She earned an MFA from Brown University and a PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, Lee is a voting member of the National Book Critics Circle. Currently, she lives in San Diego and serves in the university administration at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Photo Credit: Staff