A Letter to Isaku

A Letter to Isaku

This came from a corner of my desk when I was cleaning up recently. It’s a letter I wrote to Isaku as part of a school requirement. I still like this letter, and I will keep it.

Spring 1998

Isaku

When you were still unborn, you were already someone I knew very well. I could feel you thinking inside my stomach, sucking on your thumb, looking at your tiny toes, jumping with surprise _ with me _ when something startling happened, like a dog barking out of the blue.

I hope I don’t embarrass you with this letter, which Brother John O’Donnell tells me you will have to read before your schoolmates. But I would like you to know that I love you very much. And nothing will change that, ever.

These days, I feel you are sometimes unsure about your future. That’s understandable. Like other Sophomores, you are still so young, yet important decisions are coming up on you fast.

Having two nationalities, two cultures and languages may seem a bit confusing, but it merely opens up more choices for you. You don’t have to close the doors of opportunity too hastily. You have plenty of time. Be strong and believe in yourself, although it is OK to be weak, and you are not alone. Many people, including your teachers and friends who care about you, are there to help you.

I hope you do your best in your studies and try to grow up to be a fine young man. The world is a beautiful place, but it is filled with many problems and needs young people like you to care and at least give it a good try to bring about a change for the better.

I thank God every day for making you part of my life. I thank God for keeping you safe.

It is only after becoming a mother and watching you gradually grow into adulthood that I finally know why God chose to come to us as a little boy who grew up among us. He knew that would make it so easy for us to love Him. It seems such a very simple and so obvious a fact, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

Have a good retreat,

Mom

FEARLESS AT 90 a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Photo by On Lim Wong

FEARLESS AT 90 a poem by Yuri Kageyama

I am fearless at 90

Wrinkles deep as the Nile

Hair translucent spiderwebs

Varicose veins throbbing blood

A map of fate on a carcass of skin

I am fearless at 90 

I rap poetry with my dentures

Jazz dance with my wobbly knees

I rock like Jimi Hendrix

We Boomers invented Revolution

I am fearless at 90

I’m so close to the pearly gates

I’m on speaking terms with the angels

I’m so near-sighted I read minds

My fungus breath slays dragons

I am fearless at 90

My wheelchair zips Ferrari-style

My voice resonates five octaves low

My cane duplicates as a samurai sword

My hearing aid just blocks out noise

I am fearless at 90  

I have no appointments to keep

No bosses to please

No dates to impress

No one can put me down

I am fearless at 90

I barely remember what’s up or down

Or who is where anymore;

Beyond gender, race, class,

Or even age

I am fearless at 90

My skin like washi paper

My fingers gnarled like a witch

I am neither man nor woman

White, black, brown or yellow.

I am just 90, and fearless:

Those days are long gone,

Not trusting anyone over 30,

I’ve given birth to a thousand children

And have a million grandchildren

I am fearless at 90

Although death is around the corner,

I’ve seen war and peace

Endured abuse to survive;

Don’t expect or need respect

I’m proud to be fearless at 90

^___<

Note from the poet:

I am not yet 90, but I feel this way and wrote this poem.

When I’m 90, I will write my real fearless at 90 poem.

The poem was published in the Winter 2024 issue of KONCH MAGAZINE.

HAIKU FOR MY FATHER by Yuri Kageyama

HAIKU FOR MY FATHER by Yuri Kageyama

A dead man’s desk

Snacks he’s forbidden to eat

Magic tricks for grandchildren

My father died in his 70s, a big man with big ambitions, prone to cruelty and violence but just as quick with his brilliance, generosity and humor. He calmed down a bit with age. And it was natural he was far more loved by his grandchildren, who found him just hilarious, than by his daughters, who had found him oppressive. His desk upstairs had to be cleaned out after he died. My mother found bags of treats like nuts and kakinotane he was secretly eating, because his doctors had put him on a strict diet for his heat condition. She also found toy magic tricks he had also bought secretly and had been practicing to impress his grandchildren. They adored him, played games, ran around outside with him, going fishing or going on goofy rides at a tiny park. They would laugh and laugh with this old roly-poly man, who was really just one of them, never mind he was a former NASA engineer and university professor. My mother used to say my father always acted as though he couldn’t care less if his grandchildren visited or not. She wondered why he would say such an obviously untruthful thing. That was my father, too proud and too big and strong to admit to any weakness, like missing his grandchildren. There is nothing as heartbreaking as love because even love must come to an end with death. But love that can’t be expressed openly, and must be stashed away like magic tricks in the drawer of a desk. I don’t know what to call such love. But it is love.

LOVE SIMPLY a love poem by Yuri Kageyama

LOVE SIMPLY a love poem by Yuri Kageyama

To be near hurts

To be far hurts, too

Love simply hurts

To live hurts, to die hurts

Watching you die hurts even more

Love simply hurts

To know you hurts

To have known you hurts

Love simply hurts

But to not know you, not hurt for you

Is simply not a choice

It’s simply love, simply love

No Tears _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

No Tears
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

We do not weep, scream, even whimper,
Too scared to speak out;
Tears seek sniffles of sympathy,
Pleas want cuddles of resolution.
 
Born into darkness with no escape
We stay silent.
“Mama, I’m sorry, mama,”
Is not Something we say.
 
We drink in all those words
Like the salty tears we do not taste;
Just wait in fear,
Filled with hatred.
 
And the blind groping for justice,
The secret tongue-biting vow of revenge;
We we do not ask for pity,
We do not cry.

HAIKU FOR A RAINY DAY

HAIKU FOR A RAINY DAY By Yuri Kageyama

Separated

Kimono sleeves are wet though

It is not raining

あえぬひと

きものぬれるや

ふらぬ雨

HOPE A poem by Yuri Kageyama

HOPE

a poem by Yuri Kageyama March 13, 2022

My son used to say:

Mommy, your boiled eggs are so good,

The best in the world;

We would sit together on the grass,

Munching on boiled eggs

Simply perfect,

Smoothly moist when peeled:

Mama no yude tamago wa sekai ichi oishiinda

That little voice promises;      

How blessed I am to be in a world

That has the chicken and the egg,

Whichever came first, and clean water to boil.

How blessed I am to be in a world

To have a son who sees love

In an egg boiled in water.  

DIAMOND RING a poem by YURI KAGEYAMA

DIAMOND RING
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

That ring
Solitaire
That glistening rock
Magical
Probably stolen from Africa
No matter
Broken promises
Please marry me
Sitting on a velvety
Cushion
Cartier Tiffany’s
Harry Winston
Van Cleef & Arpels

After the young woman my son just broke up with
That young woman who played the violin
Asked me to go with her
To the clinic to get an abortion
I give her my grandmother’s diamond ring
The only diamond ring I’d ever owned
You can do whatever you want with it
Throw it away, pawn it away,
No, no, no, I can’t take this, she says
No, no no, I want you to have it, I say

That ring
Solitaire
That glistening rock
Magical
Probably stolen from Africa
No matter
Broken promises
Please marry me
Sitting on a velvety
Cushion
Cartier Tiffany’s
Harry Winston
Van Cleef & Arpels

With the passing of years
We outgrow our fetishes
I wonder if she still plays the violin
I don’t wonder about the ring

That ring
Solitaire
That glistening rock
Magical
Probably stolen from Africa
No matter
Broken promises
Please marry me
Sitting on a velvety
Cushion
Cartier Tiffany’s
Harry Winston
Van Cleef & Arpels

Loving Younger Men _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama in collaboration with Yui Shikakura on shamisen and song

“Loving Younger Men,” a poem written by Yuri Kageyama, read by Yuri Kageyama with Yui Shikakura on shamisen and singing at Bar Gari Gari in Tokyo at a Drunk Poets See God gathering Dec. 22, 2017. Her song is traditional Japanese “kudoki,” in which a woman talks about being abandoned by her lover, a genre that is sad but also an erotic celebration.
“Loving Younger Men” was first published in BEYOND RICE, A BROADSIDE SERIES, Mango Publications and NOLO Press, 1979.
Loving Younger Men
a poem by Yuri Kageyama
Only the bodies of young men aroused her; the pure innocence in their wide dark eyes, the wild still animal strength in their muscles, the smoothness of their skin, so shiny, stretched out over their boy-like shoulders, flat stomachs, abdominals rippling gently, their thick thighs that could thrust forever into the night, their soft moist lips, where their tonges, so delicious, dwelt, which darted against, into her vagina, making her moan with joy, forgetting everything, which felt so strong against her own tongue at one moment, yet another, seemed to melt like caramel in the back of her throat, their dry fingers, that touched her in the most unexpected and expecting spots, their penises, half-covered by their black curls, seemed smaller, less developed, less threatening, yet as their shoulders strangely widened when they held her, their penises filled her, pointed against her deepest uterine insides, hurting her with a pleasurable pain, as though she could sense with her hand, their movements from outside her belly. Her father beat her as a girl. She ran from him, crying, please don’t hit me! please don’t hit me! No, rather she stood defiant, silent, silent tears drunk down her chest, till he, in anger or fear, slapped her again and again, once so hard she was swung across the room, once on her left ear so that she could not hear for three weeks. She frequented bars, searching for young men who desired her. She sat alone drinking. She preferred the pretty effeminate types _ perfectly featured, a Michelangelo creation, island faces with coral eyes, faces of unknown tribal child-princes. To escape her family, she eloped at sixteen, with an alchoholic. who tortured her every night, binding her with ropes, sticking his penis into her mouth until she choked, hitting her face into bruises, kicking her in the stomach, aborting her child, his child. The young boys’ heads, she would hold, after orgasm, rocking them in her arms. She would kiss the side of their tanned necks, breathe in the ocean scent of their hair, lick their ear lobes and inside their ears. When they fell asleep, sprawled like a puppy upon her sheets, their mouths open, she would lie awake watching, watching, watching, admiring their bodies, how so aesthetically formed, balanced, textured. What she enjoyed the most was their fondling her breasts, suckling, massaging the flesh, flicking the tongue against the nipple, biting, sucking till her nipples were red-hot for days. She could come just by this, without penetration. When she is alone, she cries. In the dark, she reaches upwards, into the air, grabbing nothing.

My songwriting _ “Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed”

Two of my songs in this new album

my songwriting

“Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed,” two songs I co-wrote with Hiroshi Tokieda and Tea, are part of this great album that just came out (October 2017).
“Oh My Buddha” (audio of an earlier reading in the link) is an Asian take on what we often say: “Oh My God,” something that Toshinori Kondo pointed out some time back as what we should be saying as Asians.
And so I imagined what it would have been like to have been married to a great man like Buddha.
It might have not been as wonderful as it might seem.
Tea and I were talking about how fun it would be to write a pop song that was inspired by an Indian theme.
And so this is what we did.
I even rap or read my poem in the recording _ woooh la la !!

OH MY BUDDHA
_ a song about faith, love and other things
By Yuri Kageyama

REPEATING THEME:
My name is Yasodhara
Wife of Buddha
Mother of Rahula
I ride a white elephant
I am Siddharta’s woman

VERSE 1
You took off to find Nirvana
Became a hero for the poor
You just took off one sunny day
And found enlightenment
While I’m stuck in the kitchen
Barefoot and pregnant, alone

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 2
You’ve started a religion
See statues in your likeness
Of gold and bronze and wood
Sitting prim on that lotus
While I’m having your babies
Feeding them, aborting them, alone

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 3
You remember I cooked you breakfast?
So you could go and contemplate
Sitting 49 days under the Bodhi tree
To discover, sacrifice, meditate?
While I’m crying in my misery
Breathing my prayers, alone

(Repeat theme)

REFRAIN
You’re a superstar
I’m a nobody
You live in history
I die unknown
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
My universe went up in smoke
My universe went up in smoke
Oh, my Buddha
Oh, my Buddha

I am planning a music video, and I have asked Toshinori “Toshichael” Tani to come up with choreography.
He will dance in the video, which I will film.

“I Will Bleed,” to me, evokes a lot of things _ abortion, miscarriage, birth, heartbeat, love, death.
Love is such a powerful force it is both horrible and awful.
My poem is about that horror, inspired by the double suicides of Chikamatsu, which highlight how the puppets, in death, are able to transcend how miserable, human and lowly they were before that moment of death.
That beauty to me is about the kind of love that crosses boundaries, overcoming racism and other small, discriminatory, confining preconceptions.
It speaks of the potential of our human condition.
I wrote the poem for Hiroshi and Tea.
But it is a poem for all lovers, and the hope love will overcome hate around the world, through the purification of our bleeding.