Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Photo from Jill Alexander Essbaum

I am taking an online class. The instructor is Jill Alexander Essbaum. The photo was taken by her.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Madrid--Accepted!

New Madrid: A Journal of Contemporary Literature is accepted two poems.


My grandfather hides in a closet.
“I’m not afraid of dying in this war,”
he screams. Bullets

blotted out the sky
in 1945. Flower-printed
futon mattresses caught fire. Ash

stuck in my grandfather’s eyes. Like rotten
fruit, only the skin held a human
shape. His shoes were scorched.

Alzheimer’s doesn’t destroy war memories.

“Do you want to eat a tangerine?” I asked.
He crouches in the closet,
stroking his dried toes. I sit next to him. Cicadas

recite the Buddhist sutra. I trace
the tangerine’s peel and think of your
smooth body. My nails

pierce skin. Juice rolls
down between my fingers.
I lick

their tips next to the shaking old man.


Time and again; time..... and again; I sit
.....and stay in my Japanese body; no

honeymoon: no
dining table: eight months & three

thousand dollars to become an Asian
or Pacific Islander

immigrant; it’s pending: I can do
nothing: I am

nothing until it clears; I can’t hire you—
secretaries treat me like an illegal

alien.....and warn my red
passport will expire soon; I smack

a laundry basket into a I feel
accomplished in this country; in Lawrenceville,

Illinois: two
blocks down from a Catholic church: we rent

an apartment and I look at the moon
over the wild stems.

Note: (.....) means space.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FOREIGN / GREY-- Prose-ish Poem


Because I’m from Fukushima, I say, I’m not / radioactive poison, and eat green / seaweed salad from a bowl. You / hold my hands as we share these long / silences together. Because / I’m a Buddhist, I recite, Namu-amida-butsu, at noon / over lunch, and very late at night after a long / day’s work. But I don’t pray for the Japanese. I pray / for myself because I crave / a word. I want it to avalanche into my eyes / like a kaleidoscope for the dead, but the sky / darkens as usual because I’m so / often lost in this foreign / grey. I take my two fingers and push / them into my breasts. I say, If I / die with cancer, for example? You rub / my left breast. My brown / nipples are so cold at 2:30 A.M.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


..........after Japan, 3/11/2011

I type numbers for thirteen
dollars an hour and sit in a black
chair for eight hours. Glass
cloth covers my eyes. Cold

sand fills my bones. A graveyard

on the hill is burning.
After the earthquake, a fisherman
runs to the fire. He carries
a clarinet and yells to me,

What else do you want?

I stab
the calculator with scissors.
They slice my skin. Veins
overflow. White ashes fall on the granite

floor. I smell of my singed eyelids. A tsunami

pushes the flaming tombstones and boats.

Under the crescent moon, the fisherman
plays a clarinet concerto. He vibrates
his reed. In the ocean breeze, he inhales
human dust. I open

my eyes. I want


and then more lights.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I am taking Jill's online poetry workshop. For the first week, we discussed about Prompts & Ideas. I edited my poems with their posts.


The cranes are crowded in my mail box.

Seventeen blue
papers lay scattered on the floor. Buddha
folds one more for my shiawase.

He whispers, What did you expect?

My mother rings

a bell from her wheelchair. I change
her diaper.

A sudden noise
comes from Buddha’s stomach. He brings

me an apron. I open

the refrigerator and reheat
steamed rice and smoked mackerel.

From the white plates,
he feeds my mother and the origami

birds...........I wring

their necks.

My favorite prompts from the Online Workshop:

#1) Backwards
Like Sarah’s idea, I like to flip my poems as well. And then I kill my favorite unnecessary words and reorganize stanzas & line breaks.

#2) Ekphrastic
Like Tanya’s idea, I also like writing about art/paint. My obsession is Modigliani. I would definitely have a date with him.

#3) Steal attractive words from books
I also like stealing vocabulary from many authors.

I have borrowed and adapted words from Christine Garren, Franz Wright, James Wright, Louise Gluck, Jack Gilber, and others (my favorite poets are very similar to Charmi’s). In addition, I love to randomly open Botanical Guidebooks and use plant names in my poem.

#4) Combine my old poems
When my poem is not strong enough, I put a couple of my old poems together. After I choose the poems, I change narrative voices, rearrange lines into different stanzas, and try to create a seamless patchwork.

#5) Translate articles from Japanese into English
I adapt the strongest phrases into my poems. However, I should be careful that the poem is not just a translated article. I try not to forget adding imagination and poetic inspiration.