a roofless church,” a litany of memories, of griefs and losses, “until every
confiscated diamond in the night has returned every last love letter.”
Though mitochondria and genetics recur throughout the book, Lee is
a poet deeply interested in a variety of scientific research, including bot-
any and astrophysics. In “Babygirl Learns to Take a Trip around Venus,”
the speaker’s young child gets to know the plants and animals that make
up her ecosystem, down to the African violets on the porch:
after Baron Walter von Saint Paul, a middling colonial
administrator who in 1892 discovered the flower blue wild on a
in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania, therein initiating their
mass cultivation to the west.
Lee tries to imagine how a person might come to understand them-
selves as belonging to a place. He writes,
Maybe all flowers have an imperializing function.
If not to cover up the stench, to beautify all the graves.
Part Korean, Irish, Ukrainian, French, German, and Jew,
O Babygirl, I want to believe your future is an open field of glorious
weeds and wildflowers.
He writes with hope that “in this infinite universe, no one cares:
Where are you from? What are you?” He disrupts conventional language
about native or nonnative species, attending to plantain and clover,
sometimes called invasives, often called weeds, and also considers how a
word such as “weed” has been used to describe people of color, including
members of the Hmong community in his neighborhood. “I overheard
/ two white neighbors mumbling: like dandelions more would come /
because you know the Hmong breed like weeds.” His disruption of the
conventional botanical terminology invites readers to consider not only
the language but also the stories and epistemological assumptions we
bring to the question of who belongs in an ecosystem.
While docupoetics is able to highlight the beauty in scientific complexi-ties, from detailed theories to taxonomical language, it is also defined by
moments of leaping into the unknown, often via a powerful commitment