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.

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.

Where have all The Tokyo Flower Children gone?

“Relative deprivation” is a concept in sociology, which refers to the common phenomenon of people’s dissatisfaction not being correlated to the reality of oppression, but instead to perceived oppression.
This means human nature is such that people are most dissatisfied when they think they should be getting better treatment.
And that could be when things are getting better _ not necessarily worse as might be expected _ because it’s all about perceptions.
The plight of Japanese youngsters isn’t all that bad compared to their counterparts in many other nations.
But their sense of relative deprivation is quite intense because social pressures for them to conform and to do good are quite high.
Many outside of Japan would be proud of having landed an assembly-line job.
If you are Japanese, it is less than perfect.
Being shut out of a white-collar lifetime employment job after completing a degree from a prestigious college is often an embarrassment not only for the youngster but the entire family.
“Freeter” is a label assigned to the despised when many Americans would be happy _ and proud _ to just have a job, any job, even a “keiyaku” or “haken” (i.e., not lifetime employment) job!
Imagine the stigma in Japan for being unemployed.
And the jobless rate is at a record high 5.7 percent (which wouldn’t be a record at all in places like the U.S.)
Relative deprivation is seething in Japan.
Random crime to vent out frustrations is on the rise.
The existence of random crime may not be all that surprising in other big cities of the world.
Not so for Japan, which has long boasted a reputation for being crime-free (not that any nation is truly crime-free).
So no one is prepared for a stabbing spree in a commuter train station or a beating at night in a park.
In the U.S., if a nut goes berserk in public, he/she would be dead quite quickly.
The police would shoot him/her.
In Japan, we read reports of police who have been unable to track down the perpetrator, let alone arrest him/her.
In the U.S., homes have several locks. In Japan, people go out leaving their doors unlocked.
In the U.S., some citizens are armed, take self-defense lessons, carry mace or at least avoid walking alone in dark streets.
In Japan, hardly anyone does.
It is a rather dangerous situation, even if the numbers of the relatively deprived youngsters who end up turning to crime are still few.
Japan simply isn’t prepared.
There is a sense of hostility in the air.
There is a sense the best times for Japan are over.
The Tokyo Flower Children may be wilting _ remnants of the good old times _ just as the American hippies were of the 1960s.
More on the Tokyo Flower Children.
(video above: Jounetsu wo Torimodosou by Teruyuki Kawabata of CigaretteSheWas translation by Yuri Kageyama, who reads with Haruna Shimizu, and additional music by Winchester Nii Tete, Keiji Kubo, Yumi Miyagishima and Carl Freire in the TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN performance of Multicultural Poetry and Music at the Pink Cow, Tokyo, June 8, 2008.)