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A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.20

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami experiences into the first narrative. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
SNOW PEA

Please help me God,
I repeat under the crescent
moon. It gleams on a snow

pea field. The purple
petals bobble in the wind. The smell

of laundry detergent
blows from a vent. I trace
a lozenge on my thigh. Seventeen

minutes before May, you open
the door with toilet bowl cleaner. I hate
the lemon fragrance. The TV camera

shows camphor trees. Japanese school
girls march with microphones. We don’t

need the nuclear plants. We want
healthy children. I break

egg shells and cook a pea
omelet. You boil water for the chicken
flavored noodles. In the kitchen, your

finger slowly moves

down my spine.
One more day to the weekend, the poetry wonderland. I am surviving.
That's really right--I agree with you--I mean that my project is adapted from the details of news and stories about Japanese earthquake survivors; however, my poetic delivery is sort of missing. My biggest concern was how well I could translate those reported experiences into poetry material.

My process of writing poetry is that I observe the facts, translate it into English, and add those themes to fictional accounts in poems. The images are always based on my favorite things-- flowers, music, and family dramas. But the poetry is still news in the shape of poetry because I am adapting the narrative of news about 70% of the time.

For my next twenty-some poems, I will focus more on my artistic choices. Of course, I will edit the last nineteen poems. They are my very first drafts, so they will definitely change. I kind of surprised myself in keeping the first drafts in this blog, but please enjoy them. Next time you see them, they will be more polished. I promise.
About the new poetry, I though that it was a good idea to write poems for the tsunami victims; however, as I write more poems, I feel that it is inappropriate to imitate a victim. I will never understand their real sorrow. I heard a lot of survivors' experiences, and my brain kept telling me that I must adapt their stories into poems to get their tragedy out to more people. And then I fool myself. In the end, I am writing poems for myself. I think it is just for my satisfaction.

I am burning out for sure with my job and life. My thoughts are always everywhere--work, my unemployed husband, my sick father, and my neurotic mother-- writing poems after that is further exhausting me...unfortunately.

If I cannot finish this project, I probably cannot be a real poet, so I will challenge myself until it is finished. But at the same time, I really want to do this project for the victims in Japan.

I know that there are a lot of poets who have full time careers and they have similar problems …

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.19

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
LETTER

I found your body. You were under a wet
wool blanket and broken concrete. Your
thin skin was frosted. My daughter kept
you warm with her chapped hands. My
son found a letter in a blue tin box with
electricity bills. You wrote it when we
argued until three o’clock in the morning.
Ganbarou today. We’ll have a better night.
You put it in my lunch-box in 2008. My daughter cries,
I don’t want a spiritual message. I want my mother.
I took off your wedding ring and gave it to her.
My son stroked her head. I heard your voice
in the cold white wind like a reverie.


***NOTE***
Ganbarou means to do one’s best work.
I only wrote five poems in 2010. Well, I got married, moved, and looked for work for a while. Fortunately, I got a weekend teaching job and weekday office job. And then, my father had a stroke. 2010 was one of the most unforgettable years in my life.

Now I have 18 poems (some of them seriously need to be edited,) and I really want to keep writing for 50 poems. The feeling is very similar to a coiled spring. However, I still have difficulty managing both my full time job and writing. I work for a Japanese tool company. My brain is seriously occupied by numbers, email manners, and wrenches. I am dealing with a lot of wrenches. I can turn myself into a wrench. I am confident.

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.18

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
Dandelion

There you were.

Your friends and brothers were
washed away on their way home.

You sat in the corner of a white

bed; still no words five
days after the earthquake.

I interviewed you. My cassette
tape recorded the cawing of a crow.

Why you don’t leave her alone? an old nurse asked me.

The rest of Japan starves for hope.

After the tsunami,

after the fire,

there is a dandelion.

The yellow dot thrives
on the wasteland, and then a grandmother is found.

There is hope
you will meet your family again.

When?

Under the sheets, you feel your cold legs.

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.17

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
FUKISHIMA SPRING

I want to eat a daikon-
radish with a bowl of steamed
rice. Chips in plastic bags,

tuna cans, and add water
to instant food, I eat them on a thin
mattress on the cold floor of the shelter.

Home is calling me. Tulips

bloom in the garden. Cherry
blossoms are inkblot-pink
on a natane-rainy

day. I want to walk in the rain
without my yellow umbrella;

white little petals, a sweet

smelling daphne, blue-purple
morning dew drops on young leaves…

I sing an old Japanese
spring song to my unborn child.
I am sorry—I cannot promise you spring.

I close my eyes.

A child wears a hat. Sprouts
grow like a piano

phrase note. I hold
my hands. I keep singing

the song. I feel

sleet on my cheeks.



***Note***
Natane-rainy day is…

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.16

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
GRADUATION

I found your pajamas
but not your body. I kept
digging around it under

the flashlight. Here was your
body: white & cold. I washed

your face with a towel and changed
into new clothes. Your body
did not have noticeable

injuries but you
smelled like the ocean. I knew

that you were dead, but I kept
talking to you all night. You
were smiling under the bonfire.

At the crematorium, your teacher
gave me your diploma and toothbrush.

Your only picture was stained
and crumbed. You had Down Syndrome
and lived at the high school dorm.

You always said, I want to have a job.
I want to be independent after graduation.

Congratulations, your teacher
shook your hand. And your body
was carried

into the oven. I decided
not to cry after March 11.

M…

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.15

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
BECAUSE

Because I’m from Nagoya, I say, Don’t worry, your
family will be fine. Because you’re from Fukushima,
you don’t think so. You pray by making thousands
of origami cranes after your American husband sleeps.
The cranes have your tear drop polka dots. Of course
I pray for the Japanese people, I say and hide my eye
drops. 12,000 became victims of the earthquake, Namu-
amida-butsu. The same as one in ten people in my village.
Ten people live in my apartment building. I’m the only
Japanese resident. My neighbor is afraid to touch my
Japanese groceries. It is not radioactive poison, I say
and eat dried green seaweed from the plastic bag.


***Note***
Namu-amida-butsu is a phrase from Buddhist prayer.

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.14

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
ORIGAMI CRANE

I ask my mother
to live with me in America.
She says, I will stay with your brother.

He is a police officer. He patrols
within 30km around
the Fukushima nuclear plant

and breathes in and out
in the late spring air; purple
crocuses, pansies, and

invisible radioactive particles…
Over the phone, she continues,
You have your life in America and

I have my life in Japan. I hear
pacific waves from the phone receiver.
My six-year-old son makes

an origami crane. He learned
that thousands of origami
cranes bring happiness and

peace from my mother last summer.
His little hands fold the blue
paper. I choose orange

paper. The sunset softly
shines through the thin curtain. Shadows
of two hands are on the origami

papers. The cra…

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.13

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
WHITE FLAG

Like a doll with its little
feet out. It was a dead
baby next to a dead mother.
She carries a bag
full of diapers. The diapers
are heavy with sea water. I find
baby clothes & cans of milk
in her backpack. I dig a hole,
post a long poll, and fly
a white flag. The flag
is a sign that they are dead.

In my dream,
there are those dead
bodies. I shake them in my arms.
Are you alright?
The bodies are like cold
rubber bands. The faces
melt on my hands.
The eyes open
widely. I see their sockets
full of mud. Sounds

of a fluttering flag
wake me in the middle
of the night.

There are still bodies without a flag.
I am happy to have composed twelve poems so far. My goal is 50 poems with my prayers to the victims there. If you find any emotionally moving news articles about the Japanese earthquake, please leave me a note. I would like to keep writing about it with many different aspects in mind. A day after a day, a poem after a poem, I hope people in Japan heal from this disaster.

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.12

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
BRIDGE

1.
My sister and I were running
away from the tsunami. A policeman

pointed to the pedestrian
bridge. Over the bridge,

there was a hill.

2.
The right side slowly
collapsed. People & houses

were pushed away like an origami
city. Pink, orange, green…paper

flowers, I used to make with my sister.

3.
Our origami city was underneath
a wool blanket tent. We listened to Satie’s

piano music. With a flash light,
it was preserved in eternal

peace until the blanket fell.

4.
I saw the policeman’s head
flash in the water.

Where is my sister?

I called out her name over the hill.

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.11

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
TOKYO WATER

Tokyo sakura: cherry
blossoms; from the train
windows, I see Japanese
pink petals: the petals are blown
by the spring breeze: the nuclear
breeze ripples puddles; the meteorologist
said, the breeze; no harm, but children
should drink bottled water: no water
left in the supermarkets; I import
unpopular Canadian water;
again, I stayed overnight thinking about
water; a water strider wants to splash
the rain water; rain boots & rain coat & rainbow
umbrella; must wear sleek clothes
to protect your body from the radiation; again
the meteorologist said, the soil absorbs
water; spinach glows with dew
drops in the morning.

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.10

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
PERSIMMON TREE

I’m waiting for my wife at the second
floor of our house. The first floor was
full of mud. I can’t take off my shoes.
The washing machine knocked over a
persimmon tree in her garden. I picked
up plastic pieces, so when she comes
back, she can plant hydrangeas. Maybe
the next earthquake crushes the house,
firefighters told me to live at a shelter.
I refuse to leave. I wash muddy rice in
the bathtub. In the refrigerator, there is
salami… I’m waiting for my wife. Every
morning, I visit the shelter to check the
survivor’s list and news. I just learned,
I have a loan to pay for the destroyed house.
Peaceful Moment from Bali
The picture is from my respected professor

A POEM FOR THE TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN NO.9

I am writing poems adapting Japanese tsunami news/stories into the first narrative. What I can do as Japanese, I want to tell their stories to English speaking countries. The poem is fictional based on a real event.

***
UMINARI

I gave you a warm
glass of sake. Uminari; miles away
waves crashed in the ocean.

It sounded like a thunder storm,
but you only saw
stars in the sky. I plucked

the samisen strings;
allegro tempo in a small
Japanese bar. The wind
slowly blew rain clouds over the stars.

Let me grab my kimono and samisen.

I screamed when a man
carried me to the hill. Fifteen
minutes later, the tsunami
washed away the bar…

I saw your wife. She looked
for you in the survivor’s list. Her eyes
followed her finger
down hundreds of names. Uminari
echoed in her mind. I want

to play the samisen again.
On the Uminari night, I light
the candle. Your favorite sake and yellow
chrysanthemum are on the counter.


***Note***
Samisen is a three-stringed Japanese banjo