April Naoko Heck

April Naoko Heck was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1971, and moved to the United States seven years later. Her poems have most recently appeared in Artful Dodge, Borderland: Texas Quarterly Review, Epiphany, and Shenandoah. She has received an AWP Intro Journals Award and held a writers residency at VCCA. She currently works as the readings coordinator at the NYU Creative Writing Program, and lives in Brooklyn.

Updated April 2010

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The Asian American Literary Review

Poems: "Spark," "Distances" & "All day people poured into Asano Park"


Use room-temperature water, never ice. Skin holds heat,
you think you’re more burned than you are.
Your singed hair crimps and smells like eggs
that once cooked on the farmhouse’s old gas stove.
Bathwater runs faster than a sink’s, you kneel
to turn your face under the tub’s faucet.
If you’d followed directions, you’d be
in the pasture instead, palming sugar to the horses.

Which sent you reeling back, the oven’s flash
or pressure, the heat or fear? Obaasan fell forward
but that was different, that was a great wind, that was outside;
you’re in a house, your clothes …

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The Asian American Literary Review

Poems: "Conversation with My Mother" & "Translation"

Conversation with My Mother

How much fabric was left?
         Not much. Boro-boro, Obaasan said. Shreds.

And your mother recognized her by the fabric

If the fabric was in shreds, she was almost naked?
         No, she wore white cotton undergarments.

And they still covered her body?
         They covered her body.

They weren’t torn like her blouse and pants?
         They covered her body.

What did the pattern of the fabric look like?
         I don’t remember, but it couldn’t have been beautiful.
         The emperor forbade decorative dress during the war.

So the pattern wasn’t …

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The Asian American Literary Review

Poem: "The Leaf Book"

The Leaf Book

In the fall of third grade, when my teacher
assigns the leaf-book project—collect
and name at least a dozen tree leaves—
my dad drives our family to an arboretum,
he brings a field guide and we’re all leaf-picking,
all saying gingko, chestnut, walnut, buckeye.
Mama writes down American names,
learns too that rootbeer-scented sassafras bear
three kinds of leaves: mittens, gloves, and palms.


The night before my book’s due, he stays up.
He helps sort leaf after leaf, irons them
between waxpaper pages he’s cut.
By the circular light of a lamp
he grows younger and …

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