Anju, from the Far World
—after seven paintings by Fuyuko Matsui
on the lake’s face
is what you saw,
but you were wrong
to assume. Forgive me,
but drowning’s not
my thing. While
you knelt in the weeds,
weeping, I slipped
through the trees. Here
I recede to dun, beetles
and leaf mold
my familiars. Here
I take my leave, my Bereaved.
In blue-black woods,
it appeared to me, cold
Dear Other, Dear Shadow,
I’m done for—a tracery
in red on black.
All’s not what it seems.
There’s a story here:
ghost of my brother fled
in my stead, our
mother mere memory—
There’s a story here:
tracery of hair snared
in the branches—black
branches lacing the air—
dank odor of lake water,
scrap of song wafting
across the sound
Deliver me, wind
in the pines—pitch
of night birds—
Deliver me, white
Narcissus spent to ash.
I’ll never come clean.
Hear Mari read “Anju, from the Far World” here:
Spring, Iwate Prefecture
“There were no provisions to evacuate livestock from the irradiated zone, and animals were abandoned.”
—from “Japan’s Nuclear Refugees,” a photo essay at National Geographic online
She was young still, even-tempered, gave sweet milk. That morning she stood in March mud, clean straw at her feet, as much water as her trough would hold. He scratched her shoulder and flank for a long time, the way she liked him to, then climbed into the truck piled high with his life and his wife’s life and drove across the awakening fields and over the poisoned river and away.
What might she have known of days? —the sun’s flarings and fadings, clouds and cool rain, moon’s pale passage—hyacinths and narcissus emerging from the earth. We think: she was a cow, she lived in the moment, what could she know of parting?
—what we tell ourselves so as not to feel.
I want to imagine she missed him—missed the skwoosh of his boots as he crossed the yard, his
unmistakable odor of dirt and saké and cedar—missed his moving about the warm barn, murmuring to her about nothing. The way he sang softly, almost under his breath, as he milked her, steam floating up from the tin pail and out into the early day stained with the faintest rose—
My father who hardly knows me grows old
across the Pacific. Each year I dispatch a raft
laden with pomegranates, honey—poems
he will never read. Some years the raft founders
in oceanic storms and sinks down
into the depths, freighted by my expectations.
Sometimes I wake from my trance and the wind
brings me messages from a man still a boy,
waiting to be rescued and terrified
of death. Sometimes, if I listen deeply enough,
I can hear the boy’s laughter carried on the wind:
age twelve, pulling an old wagon piled with groceries
through wintry Worcester—his brother, long dead,
running ahead into the sharp New England wind—