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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Surrender — Part 1

We are delighted to present poetry from Mammoth Lake, CA based artist, Kendall Tani. Kendall shares an intimate exploration of tenderness and loss, and also generously provides writing here that includes a piece (Surrender) from a larger, collective process with Bonbu Stories - a multidisciplinary Asian American artists collective I've gotten to know more recently. We'll soon feature other parts of the collective's writing tied to Surrender in upcoming Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry columns, so stay tuned, and enjoy...

—traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Kendall Tani is an artist and poet currently based in their hometown of Mammoth Lakes, CA. Currently, much of their creative energy and focus is invested into the multidisciplinary Asian American arts collaborative Bonbu Stories, which combines music, spoken word, taiko, and movement to explore vulnerability and connection. When not making art or working at their family’s Japanese restaurant, they can be found hiking, weightlifting, and, honestly, just being alive. 



When I am consumed by grief,
or too exhausted to speak,
or troubled by anything at all,
I fall into the warmth of a friend's arms

Collapse into the weight of a lover
I nestle in further to their comfort
get closer to their heart
relax into their grasp.

I think of how my ancestors
must have done the same
in the face of perpetual upheaval
of such monumental loss 

And finally, I come to see surrender
in a different light, not just as
a tragedy of powerlessness–
for what is surrender 

if not an ask for tenderness,
for mercy?
A trusting, a hoping that
you will be treated kindly

by hands other than your own?

I wish I held on longer the last time we said goodbye

wind and cold catch hold
of branches, one-by-one divorcing
flowers from their stalks, departures
too soon put into motion. Floating
petals fill pockets of earth left behind in
the wake of winter, building
pink-pillowed caskets like
scattered haphazard shrines

and though these casualties
are annual incidents,
I blush to witness such
private passings, the gentle deaths
and final breaths of blooms that usher in
another self, another life;
these moments were not meant for me,
these losses were not mine to grieve.

even in the smallest of deaths,
there’s an inherent tenderness
in accepting inevitable endings and
mourning forfeited futures, a certain
intimacy in mortality I didn’t recognize
until I could no longer feel your palm
on mine, fingers intertwined and strangling
the other’s with a want to hold on 

to more than just our present lives,
to things more supple than air

*These poems are copyrighted by Kendall Tani (2023). 

*We invite you to read this together with the other “Surrender” pieces (parts 2 & 3).


© 2023 Kendall Tani

Kendall Tani poems poetry

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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