Poem Breaking Silence

My poem “Disco Chinatown” is in “Breaking Silence,” an anthology of Asian American poetry (1983: Greenfield Review Press) featured in the latest edition of this online magazine “asiacana.”

Disco Chinatown
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

street blood throbbing
punk maggots of the slums with fake ID’s
smelling British sterling
cover the stink of sweat, car grease and dirt
and the blood from being cut up by a Jo
or is it W.C?
slant eye to slant eye talking
smooth talking or trying,
“hey, baby-
looking nice tonight”
spilling sunrises
margaritas
bourbons with cherries
giddy easy striding to make it to my table
in your own eyes, a ghetto knight,
“wanna drink?”
in a flash and a flick, light my cigarette
the dance floor is dead tonight
linoleum cracked
the Filipino D.J. Berkeley Asian American Studies drop out is stoned
and even the lights look neon sleazy
you want me to move, a wax museum dancing doll, under your macho
gaze,
or in your arms, rocking following your rocks,
layered black hair,
moustache, always, to tickle the quick kisses,
cheap shiny shirt, four buttons open,
a jade pendant swaying against yellow brown flesh,
darker brown leather and long long legs,
you want to take me home
and the grip on my shoulder tightens,
you driving a Camaro Z28?
an Olds 442?
a broken down Malibu?
a Caddy Eldorado?
you want to be rich someday
you want to enjoy life, you say,
cuz it’s so so short,
ALL girls want you for their old man,
“in bed, I have a good body,
opium makes me last
and last
I’m ten inches
and, “a smile,
“this thick”
you play the mind games with a too ridiculous seriousness
not another escape out just for kicks
your street male pride can’t take no scratches
you’ll kick my ass when the number I give you isn’t mine
you tell me not to dance with anyone else
when I just met you tonight
and isn’t your old lady waiting at your apartment?
hardened hard up
Ricksha stray tiger cat
your life view quite
doesn’t
touch mine
and being gang banged isn’t my type of thrill
disco steps don’t silence sirens
and the skyscraper lights don’t touch Grant Avenue on a Friday night
Golden Dragon massacred meat can’t ever be pieced back together again
black lights and hanging ferns or Remy sweetness can’t hide
spilled out alley fish guts
that tell you and tell you
there just ain’t no future
your hands grope
your eyes closed
your tongue dry
your penis limp
poor ChinaMAN-child

wise words

DO YR ART D WAY U WANT
ANYWAY U WANT
ANY WANGOL U WANT
ITS UP TO U/WHAT WILL WORK
FOR U.

_ from “Catechism of d Neoamerican Hoodoo Church,” a poem by Ishmael Reed.

taiko vs hip-hop

what does it mean to be Japanese? what does it mean to be American? what is yellow vs. what is black/white? what is Music? what is art? and what does it mean to be human? no easy answers ever but key questions in life and what being an artist is all about.

Taiko with bon odori tune “Hokkai Bon Uta”

Taiko with “Waterfalls” by TLC

Taiko with Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun”

learning about pride

as a parent, i have always tried to instill in my son pride in one’s identity (race, culture, national origin).
but i don’t think i was ever truly proud.
somewhere deep inside, there was that feeling of being a second-class citizen because i was not white/Anglo-Saxon/a Westerner/an american.
asserting one’s pride is the mirror image of that feeling of inadequacy.
if you were really so proud, you wouldn’t need to keep saying it.
the whole idea of having to say it over and over again means you aren’t so sure and you aren’t so proud.
watching my son grow up to be a taiko drummer has helped me learn what true pride in one’s identity is.
because there is more to it than just telling yourself over and over that it’s OK not to be white.
it is about seeking meaning in your life, pursuing a way of life, including everyday things like the place where you choose to live, the music you choose to listen to, the artists you emulate as your models.
taiko is all about being Japanese although it is a strong statement that holds appeal to the international audience in the same way that the music of Paganini or Mozart holds appeal to the international audience, including many Asians.
in that sense, i have never really been Japanese because my cultural references are Western _ rock ‘n’ roll, James Joyce, Biblical Salvation, Claude Monet.
there is nothing really wrong with this because being international is a good thing, and art is about transcending the confines of prejudices and boundaries of consciousness.
but watching my son grow up to pursue a Japanese form of music is helping me come to terms with the incompleteness and imperfections of my pride.
now i know, i was never really proud.
i was always ashamed and felt inadequate, even afraid.
i was never sure of what i was trying to pass on to future generations as pride.
or that was precisely why i was so determined to teach my son that pride.
but when i saw that pride staring back at me in my son and how beautiful and oh so Japanese taiko can be,
i was confronted with pride in its truest and purest that stem so deep from one’s soul from someone so close to me that he is a part of me.
and so now that pride is mine.

ego and egoism

Art is all about ego.
Even if you are the kind of artist who believes that only amateurish art is about self-expression and true art is about something else entirely, no one disagrees that art can stem only from the self that is the artist.
Most forms of selfishness as they play out in society are negative, often evil.
People want to save their own asses and want more money, status, privileges, at the cost of others, and so place themselves in career/society/hierarchy to feed that ego and that egotistical need.
This is the reality that is 99.99999 percent of reality.
This is the reality that I don’t understand and never have understood.
It is not particularly interesting and certainly not satisfying.
Unfortunately, if we want to survive as human beings until death and support our family, we must deal with this torturous but undeniable 99.99999 percent of reality, since it IS 99.99999 percent _ if we count all the people who choose to be involved in this pursuit of career, money, status, etc. as valid values and goals vs. those who are interested in and satisfied by something else and become poets.
Poetry is a form of art that is as divorced from the worldly pursuits that make up 99.99999 percent of reality as things can get.
The ego takes center stage but in a way that is irrelevant from politicking, career advancement and mundane unbecoming unpoetic competition.
A poet is ego pure and simple and total and unafraid.
A poet exercises selfishness with a free conscience.

"My Eyes Tokyo" interviews Isaku Kageyama


Photo by Naokazu Oinuma.

A podcast interview with Isaku Kageyama and his music by “My Eyes Tokyo,” from Isao Tokuhashi.

“If I didn’t play taiko, I don’t know where I would be. I don’t know what I would be doing right now. I might not be alive. I might be in jail.”

Assumptions

Assumptions
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

when people bad-mouth us
sneering in French
assumptions are being made of us
a yellow face is non-literati,
good at math, grunts only pidgin
assumptions are being made of us
we are followers, never leaders,
happy to be hired
assumptions are being made of us
sidekick in “Heroes,” never the hero
Kato like Tonto
assumptions are being made of us
we do dishes
we do blow-jobs
assumptions are being made of us
trying hard to be liked, blend in,
do better than the best
assumptions are being made of us
digging with a scalpel
make our slant eyes round
assumptions are being made of us
sneaky and un-scru-pu-lous
prove our loyalty by “going for broke”
assumptions are being made of us

poem RE poet

poem Re poet
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

ninja lost in the commuter train
the voice in the urban wilderness
shaman moaning an improvised chant
the word that kills
the thought that heals
being a poet is being told to take a bungee jump
and the rope is “Made in Japan-town”
feeling that fetal taiko-drum beat vibrating from deep within
all the way from my shuddering lips
to my dew-dropping labia folds _ majora and minora
the word that kills
the thought that heals
i don’t feel safe:
will the music survive?
standing and sitting and walking and jogging
no different from anybody else
but transforming the everyday into the eternal
adding meaning to the meaningless
connecting with the dead like a radio show
seeing outer space
in the here and now
there is no choice
everywhere
but alone
being a poet
it just happens
the word that kills
the thought that heals

Vertigo

my head is swaying though it’s deadly still
red blood plasma swimming wildly
my brain rotting like miso
around and around
my feet don’t touch the ground
the walls swoop sideways
in time to a Satie piano
the pale ceiling darkens
turning upside down
i must be having a stroke
i must have a brain tumor
hormones going berserk
vagina drying
bad breath stale body odor of fungus
graying hair thinning
even eyelashes thinning
but your fat getting fatter
you gotta be kidding
dizzy biological clock ticks to the grave
reproductive function grinds to a halt
fossils of dinosaurs sleeping inside the earth
no more monthly blood
no more monthly mood swings
just permanent depression and deprivation
instinct of species preservation
menopause, people say,
marks a step into a more spiritual stage in life
the best years
the final
best years
but the top of my head is filled with air
and deep down, the fiery hotness,
where the flashes come,
that spot where the root of the umbilical cord
a tiny amputated limb
awaits
inside
makes me masturbate in my bed

Little Yellow Slut "live" version

Poetry reading at What the Dickens in Tokyo Sunday April 6.
Little Yellow Slut (previous studio version)

Poetry by Yuri Kageyama.
Music composition/arrangement, djembe, percussions by Teruyuki Kawabata (Cigarette She Was).
Kplango by Haruna Shimizu.
Didgeridoo by Keiji Kubo.

Little YELLOW Slut

You know her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, proudly gleefully
YELLOW-ly hanging on Big Master’s arm,
War bride, geisha,
GI’s home away from home,
Whore for last samurai,
Hula dancer with seaweed hair,
Yoko Ohno,
Akihabara cafe maid,
Hi-Hi Puffy Ami/Yumi,
Kawaiiii like keitai,
Back-up dancer for Gwen Stefani,
Your real-life Second Life avatar
Eager to deliver your freakiest fetish fantasies,
Disco queen, skirt up the crotch,
Fish-net stockings, bow-legged, anorexic, raisin nipples, tip-
Toeing Roppongi on
Stiletto heels.

Yessu, i spikku ingrishhu, i raikku gaijeeen, they kiss you,
hold your hand, open doors for me,
open legs for you, giggling pidgin, covering mouth,
so happy to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

Everybody’s seen her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, waiting at
Home, cooking rice, the Japanese
Condoleezza Rice,
Smelling of sushi,
Breath and vagina,
Fish and vinegar,
Fermented rice,
Honored to be
Cleaning lady,
Flight attendant for Singapore Airlines,
Nurse maid, gardener,
Japan-expert’s wife,
Mochi manga face,
Yodeling minyo,
Growling enka,
Sex toy, slant-eyes closed, licking, tasting, swallowing STD semen,
Every drop.

Yessu, i wanna baby who looohkuh gaijeen, double-fold eye, translucent skin, international school PTA,
maybe grow up to be fashion model, even joshi-ana,
not-not-not happy to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

I recognize her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, rejecting
Japanese, rejected by Japanese,
Ashamed,
Empty inside,
They all look alike,
Faceless, hoping to forget, escape
To America,
Slant-eyed clitoris,
Adopted orphan,
Dream come true for pedophiles,
Serving sake, pouring tea, spilling honey,
Naturalized citizen,
Buying Gucci,
Docile doll,
Rag-doll, Miss Universe, manic harakiri depressive, rape victim, she is
You, she is me.

Hai, hai, eigo wakarimasen, worship Big Master for mind, matter, muscle, money, body size correlates to penis size,
waiting to be sexually harassed, so sorry, so many,
so sad to be
Little YELLOW Slut.