you can see it
a desert horizon
beatings by my father
In the shadows
I am here! says
Recently, I was riding the bullet train and I noticed once again how so much of Japan was farmland encased by tree-covered mountains, village after village of rice paddies, places where you would expect the Fox to come out and enchant travelers like Japanese fairy tales.
This made me think about how you can’t really see very far into the distance in Japan as you can in the US, where the horizon stretches a la “Easy Rider.”
And I thought about how that creates a village mentality in Japan, both in the good sense and the bad, how Japanese must learn to cope with everyone-knowing-everyone’s business like the rush-hour train and how that builds team work and common identity while discouraging meaningless ego trips, though sometimes at a cost to individualism.
So I was working on haiku about how you can’t see the horizon in Japan.
But then I realized you should be able to see the invisible _ if you are a poet.
The poem refers to the contrast of East vs. West, and uses that to make a statement on how seeing beyond what is there is the redeeming value of art.
My second haiku came when I passed by Hamanako, a lake that connects with the Pacific Ocean in Shizuoka Prefecture.
My father grew up around this lake, and he knew its ins and outs for going fishing on rented boats, catching crab with nets, digging for clams.
My sister and I often spent our childhood around this lake.
The lake works as a symbol of my father who was very Japanese yet also very international _ like an inland lake or bay where you could sense in the sometimes quiet and other times powerful tide its deep connection with the expansive Pacific.
The poem is about how you want to forget parental abuse because all a child wants is love, and you realize as you get older that the abuse was not about hate but more about the mental problems the parent was undergoing as an adult.
But it is never possible to forget _ or totally forgive.
So I wrote that line to purposely fudge between forgetting to bury or forgetting and burying (especially in Japanese) because it’s both.
My last poem is simple.
I noticed how flowers don’t care if anyone is looking or not.
They bloom wherever they are, merely being true to their purpose of being.
And they are always beautiful, whether anyone is looking or not.
I’m not sure if I fully communicate that nuance in that poem. It’s rather plain like a first-grader wrote it.
But that’s what I like about that one.