THE RIVER _ a poem in the spirit of Hart Crane _ byYuri Kageyama
Katsushika Hokusai’s hawks
Still eye this Sumida River
Crying their fue whistles
Echoing music on scuttling boats,
Carrying workers, travelers, modern-day geisha _
Some rickety, faded lanterns dangling,
Other ships are futuristic tubes of glass;
The torrents are dark with the wind,
Torn dreams of star-crossed lovers
Jumping tied by cloth as one
From the Kachidoki Bridge
No longer a draw-bridge, separating at the center,
The winding waves glisten in tips of white
Like the wings of seagulls that flutter
Only during the fall and winter seasons,
In the rain, darting sideways sumi strokes,
Tiny people scamper across the landscape
The O-Edo “salarymen” and the “office lady” O-Ls
Faceless, hustling proletarian lives
Clasping sheer convenience-store umbrellas
Not the woven straw hats of the past
Tokyo Tower to the left
Sky Tree to the right
Stirring distant eternal visions,
Swimming in the Seine,
Sumida’s Sister River,
And Van Gogh’s deranged mind,
Sashaying to the ocean and the connecting skies,
Where the sun sets again,
Bleeding purple among wispy twisted clouds;
And the River churns,
Through an anonymous city of lights
Kabuki’s answer to the Pelican
The Flamingo, the Albatross,
The Heron swoops through the sky
Perches so perfectly on a pine _
Princess in mirrored waters;
The humble fish-gulping Cormorant
Dives in muddy waters,
Spreads battered wings to dry,
In flight, freed from slavery _
Transforms, a gliding Black Swan;
The Sparrow plays, chirping staccatos,
Small furs of speckled brownness,
They play, always searching
Like a lost forlorn child _
Unchanged from Issa’s poems.
SIGNS OF LIFE _ A Poem and Not a List
Baby Crabs, some are still
Worms on the pavement, mostly still
Fish are jumping, really
But Seagulls mew like Cats
And Monkeys slide on Dagwood Trees;
Smell of Tsukudani, dead Rodents,
Where Basho began his Journeys _
If We can feel the Words,
A List turns
Into A Poem:
Zinnia Elegans Profusion
Couples in Yukata
After the Storm
Fireworks at Ryogoku by Utagawa Hiroshige
Hiroshige had the idea
Roses, wine glasses, mandalas
Exploding big in the hot dark
Psychedelic flowers blooming
Over milling crowds of evil
Aspirations of Smallness:
I whisper to my blind friend:
“It’s lovely like truth,
Fragile glows bleed with neon
Hanging low only for a moment
Hiroshige had the idea
Sumida River fireworks
Let me create them
A Ditch is a River
The River is Vision
Lost forever found
Let me create them
May I stay pure
So I don’t miss them.
Whether a ditch or river
FAREWELL TO TSUKIJI
their fangs shimmer
in the darkest of nights
like starving soldiers
they make their run
fur upon fur
covering the cement,
blocking the office lights,
monstrous mice mewing,
looking for the fish
that is suddenly gone,
as they once looked for
the Pied Piper of Hamlin,
the rats of Tsukiji
not to Toyosu, where
the ground is poison
but into rich people’s homes
to eat their steaks, greed and children;
the rats blink
with tiny golden
diamonds of stench,
with the stars
THE RETURN OF THE YURIKAMOME
I waited all summer
For your return
Flutters of petal
Above the water
Buddha’s wafting lily pads
Your squawks swim the salty breeze
Circling, swooping, dancing,
They say birds vanish before an earthquake,
A hurricane, an apocalypse;
It matters not you don’t remember me
Your playful swoops
Silence screams of hate
Your presence is comfort
In this Atomic Age
You are back:
“I will not cry
Except in love” _
I wrote those lines
When I was very young,
And they are still true
As I die,
You are back
KAMIKAZE AND FUKUSHIMA (A Mother Speaks)
Poetry by Yuri Kageyama Music and Guitar by Hide Asada
at What the Dickens in Tokyo SUN July 5, 2015.
The Kamikaze _ A Poem by Yuri Kageyama
A poem by Yuri Kageyama
Boku wa ashita shutsugeki shimasu.
I take off on my mission tomorrow.
I am so sorry I have not been a good son, leaving you so soon.
It’s such a peaceful evening _ so quiet I can almost hear the fireflies glowing.
I don’t know why, but I am filled with happiness, well, maybe not happiness, since I must say goodbye.
But this feeling fills my heart, all the way to the top of my pilot helmet, like a stretching sky without a single cloud.
I will fly my Zero, and fly and fly.
Into that perfect rainbow circle of hope.
NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: A MOTHER SPEAKS
A poem by Yuri Kageyama
Please listen and tell the world.
How our children in Fukushima are getting thyroid cancer, one by one.
My daughter is one of them.
Pediatric thyroid cancer is rare.
The chance for getting it is under one in a million.
One in a million.
But in Fukushima, it’s 112 out of 380,000 children tested, and the tally is growing.
This is Fukushima after Three-Eleven.
Beautiful Fukushima, where rice paddies stretch between lazy mountains.
Beautiful Fukushima, where snow falls everywhere like fluffy rice.
Beautiful Fukushima, where, when spring finally comes, cherry trees explode in pink chiffon.
But this is Fukushima after Three-Eleven.
No other place in Japan is like that.
No other place in the world is like that _ except for the Ukraine and Belarus.
But they say these cases are turning up because we are looking so much harder, testing all the children in Fukushima.
The authorities say they are playing it safe.
When no one really feels safe
After Three-Eleven in Fukushima.
My little girl got surgery and so her tumor was removed.
And the doctor told me: Aren’t you so lucky?
Aren’t you so lucky we did those tests to save your child?
If we hadn’t, the cancer might not have been found.
But I don’t feel lucky.
I don’t feel lucky at all.
The soft light flickers even in daylight on moss, ferns and rocks, and a well trickles drops into a circular pool of peace, beyond the tiny shoji window, where he used to sit, smile and pick on kaiseki dishes with friends like Yukio Mishima and Yae, the head maid of the ryokan inn, talking about nothing and everything, that moonlit space, like a dream remembered at midnight. He wrote only after everyone left and went to sleep. In a silence that is his only. So intense he feels numb. And he wrote like he bled, effortless but draining. He only needed one night. To get away and soak in that special space, a fantasy complete with the passing of the seasons, knowing of the right word and the shock of an ancient doll’s face, so very similar to that place in his mind and soul and his writing. No one raises his or her voice. Everyone is frivolous, fragile, forgetful. Tea is bitter-sweet foam, served with a pungent pastry. He wrote. He could write. And the publisher found his manuscript done, always, outside the door in the morning.
a blue plastic bag so hard so still no more Tokyo train tracks
in my deathly dreams your sweet breath, fat knees, wet hands a child forever
timeless tweet timeline scroll blindly touch-panel light mumbles of loneliness
I wrote these recently, the last one just a few seconds ago. The first one is about the body bags that we see lying by the railroad tracks because a fair number of Japanese people commit suicide by flinging themselves in front of commuter trains. It is stunning how the bags have an eerily impersonal color, and they are motionless and rigid. But you can tell for some reason that it is a body in there, nothing else. There is nothing that we can do as witnesses except to pray. The body bags are a constant reminder of the otherworldly closeness of death amid the mundane like riding the commuter train to work. They seem to increase during the winter months _ maybe because cold is more depressing than warm, especially if you are feeling down, and maybe because the year-end and New Year’s holiday season comes as a stark reminder of how extremely alone a lonely person really is. My third poem is about Twitter, which I do quite actively because it is encouraged on my job. I see how people want to connect to others, not just the people they know in real life, but to others they will never meet. It’s called networking, and it shows how the world is a small place in this rapidly globalizing age. As the world turns, the iPhone touch-panel whirls under your fingertips as you scroll the Twitter timeline, showing comments from all over the world, mostly about nothing, and photos of dinners and lunches and sunsets and pets. It is a cool technology and a convenient tool. But it is also about how people are alone but can’t stand to be by themselves. People are lonely. The poem in-between is about my recurring dreams, where my son, who is fully grown in his 20s, is still a toddler. My little boy. I wake up, looking for him, almost panicked, wondering if he is OK, and then I am relieved there is no need to worry. It is just a dream. I have always believed death would be like a dream, except you never wake up. And so I realize these dreams are a reminder that I am still always reliving motherhood, though I am just growing older and getting closer to death. I’m reliving that moment of motherhood, with my son being that eternal child, and death will not be an end at all but a recurring dream. I feel as though I am going backward in time. Life has no beginning or end. Death is just a string of pockets of different dreamlike moments, in no particular order, in and out, falling and flying and rising, being lost in a blurry faraway dream.
If you ever panic about the impermanence of life, if you ever get worried about your job, your relationships, your future, if you fear death, the best way to put all that turmoil to rest is to reassure yourself that death will come _ surely, whether you worry or not, whether you try to stop it or not. All of it will end _ surely. Since you know this, you could conceivably go berserk and kill everyone you ever hated before you kill yourself. This is one obvious scenario. And daily headlines tell us some people really do this, thinking they are justified. OK and so why doesn’t everybody go out and do this, since death comes oh so surely. We want to leave this world a better place for those who are still alive, and this means that we don’t really deep inside believe that death ends everything, though it comes, surely, as we know it. There is something else that goes on forever. Like our love for our children, including other people’s children. Simple things like the light of the stars, the taste of food in our mouths, a blade of grass, the scentless smell of the wind. Simple things that are so forever complex.