Tag Archives: Japan

Reconstructing Summer

chicken

i.
At the Newark airport
a small girl waits in line
with her parents.
She’s dressed in a frenzy of pink
that trumpets her arrival
and suggests that her parents
are happy to let her dress herself.
She notices the rope that keeps us in line.
Steps under it.
Smiles.
She grabs the metal post beside her
and spins around it,
the top of her head grazing the rope,
her long blonde hair flying out
in large hypnotic circles,
again
and
again.

ii.
We discover how to use a GPS,
name her Beatrice.
One day, as she urges us over
an ancient wooden bridge,
we spot a small set of locks
under an awning of leaves.
We disobey her,
change our route
and sit on the bank
of the Rideau Canal.
We admire pink peonies,
breathe deeply
and think of a girl
we once knew.

iii.
I start a cloud collection.
I gather them from vast skies
above green fields of the Ottawa Valley
and pluck them from the various blues
that our planes pass through.
I stuff them in the pockets of my eyes,
and wonder if I’ve taken these clouds
for granted.
In the whole wide world
(at least the parts we’ve seen)
no other clouds compare.

iv.
We spend an afternoon at a farm
where my sister is housesitting.
A black lab named Ralph wins my heart
when he lies down with his large head on my feet.
Our parents have met us there
and we feast on pizza with green olives
and large glasses of iced tea
that leave rings of sweat on the table.
In the heat of the day,
soothed by the sound
of McDiarmids talking,
I fall asleep on the couch.
Later, we visit the chickens
who are both uglier
and more beautiful
than expected
and Megan introduces the one splendid rooster
who looks like he’s wearing harem pants.
I find that strangely fitting.
Over grey gravel roads,
my mother and I race
the storm clouds home

v.
At our favourite ramen place
back in Yokohama
they’ve added lettuce to the big red bowl.
We wonder
if they saw us
and knew.
“These people haven’t had vegetables in days.”
Lettuce and ramen go together
much better than you might think.

vi.
Between three and six
in the morning
jet lag
pins me hard
against the glass wall
between asleep and awake.
But poems fill these hours:
images and words flow
like water over smooth stones,
they move like starlings,
plunging and soaring as one bird,
forming new patterns in my mind.
I write until I fall asleep.

vii.
When people ask about our summer
we’ll say it was fine. It wasn’t.
It was painful
in spots
but also filled
with so much beauty
that I couldn’t count it.

 

P.S. This was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive The Sunday Reader directly in your inbox every two weeks, you can subscribe here.

Pink and Blue Benevolence

YokoRome

It’s raining in Yokohama.
I hang my transparent umbrella
on a hook near the door.
Water drops fall
and explode
on the carpet below.
I sit at my desk.
I turn on the red lamp
and look out
the window.

I peer in shop windows
in ancient Trastevere
where the sun pours in
at the ends of the streets
like rain falling
sideways soaking
the streets golden.
The buildings are tinted
with sun-variations,
butter yellow and
cantaloupe orange.

It’s not a memory.
I don’t remember walking.
I am walking.

I walk
through a small piazza
where two friends
with golden retrievers
on red leashes
greet each other
with kisses
on each cheek.
The dogs move closer,
stand so their bodies touch,
share a memory of open fields.

I walk past the restaurant
where we had dinner
was it two nights ago?
The waiters mock
the foreigner students,
send away those
without reservations.
Yet to us, they are
kind
enough.
Kind the way that Romans are.

I pass the shop
where he purchased
the red ceramic bowl.
A Christmas gift.
The white haired shopkeeper
pushes her glasses
to the top of her head
just like I do.
She waves.
Come in.

I shake my head.
My inbox is too full.

We are at another restaurant
with white linen table cloths
and heavy utensils.
The man beside us
the patriarch
wears navy adidas pants
with three white stripes.
Three children devour their pasta
and make fun of each other.
They do both loudly.
Every few minutes
their mother says “taci”
and they are quiet
for as long as it takes
to remember
who they were teasing.
At the table on the other side
a young foreign couple
spends the evening
looking at their phones.
We order cacio e pepe,
mac and cheese for adults.
We wonder aloud if we could
make this at home.
Pecorino and pepper.
He says he thinks so.
He says he thinks
with some practice
he could get it.

From the safety
of street corner shrines
the Virgin Mary
regards us.
Everywhere
she is pink and blue
benevolence.
I believe
she is here for me,
my patron saint
of time travel.

In Yokohama
it is still raining.
My inbox is full.

Time is a circle.
 

Pink Runners

pink

Mother holds
her daughter
on the train
to Tokyo.

Heavy-headed girl
wants to sleep.

Mother pulls a
small plastic bag
from her purse,
a bag designed
for vegetables
at the grocery store,
and she removes
each small shoe,
cotton candy runners,
carefully lifts
each foot and
places it back down
and she packs
the small shoes
in the plastic bag
and tucks the bag
in her purse
and her daughter
pulls in closer,
wraps her arms
around her mother
and looks
around the train
smiling
as if to say
I am so lucky
that
this
is
my
Mother.
 

Bird Man

birdmanblue

We see a slim man
in a light blue shirt
tucked into
pressed black trousers.
He could be a minister.

He throws small cubes
of bread for the pigeons.
Throws the bread
over a chain-link fence
and the birds fly over
his head
and he does not duck.
After the bread is gone,
he walks away,
his hands clasped
behind his back.
Like children
the birds follow him
to the end of the path
where the path
meets the road.
This man and his birds.

Perhaps this is his church.

{Written on 9 July 2015}