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Stone Bridge Cafe: "An Aquatic Flower"

Cover photo: "Deep Waters" by Audrey Kawasaki

Stone Bridge Cafe is a bi-weekly online series from Stone Bridge Press devoted to bringing readers short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, photographs, and artwork from and/or about East Asia. For submission guidelines and info, follow the link at the bottom of this post.

On the menu this week is a powerful historical poem about war, exploitation, and devastating loss written by Goro Takano. The poem is based on Takano's deceased grandmother's personal experiences in the Pacific-War years. The essence of her story is intertwined with his own feelings (as a Japanese national living in Japan) about patriarchy, patriotism, militarism, and globalism. It's also a kind of love poem.


An Aquatic Flower

As old soldiers did, I want a comfort woman of my own ―

In such a flippant attitude

This man is now attempting to possess me

He always wants to take me out of this room as his own thing

While knowing he is strictly inhibited from doing so

As long as I stay in this room, I do everything he wants me to do

After the intercourse corresponding to the money he paid me

The man stands right in front of the sole window in this room

And gazes with a sour look at the quiet night of a banal street

Slipping out of my naked body in bed and beginning to float

In the air is, again, an unknown woman ― this time she is

Mumbling away to herself with a Buddhist rosary in her hand:

“A great river as black as coal ― the jungles along both its banks

I’m standing by the river ― my white hair remains disheveled

My deeply bent back ― my wrinkled and pale face ― two tubes

In my nostrils ― today, exceptionally, I don’t need my cane ―

Because my only daughter is here to help me sustain this frail body”

“If you keep insisting on not going out, I have another idea ―

I will carry the whole outer world here for you” ― the man opens

The window, breathing out, and starts inhaling the entire universe

Still with the rosary in her hand, the old woman squats and soaks

Her face quietly in the muddy waters and gulps down a mouthful

Lifting her face, she says: “War is over, but mine has now started”

Deep Waters" by Audrey Kawasaki

The outer world changes into fragments ― when they are swallowed

Slowly into the man’s lungs, all the subtle differences in “people” or

“Buildings” or “cars” or “languages” vanish while the four words shine

The old woman says: “I visited the city hall day after day

‘Your husband was stationed on Southern Territory? Which area of it?

Oh, that riverfront? Then he will return soon, madam’ ― an official

In the hall told me so and soothed my mind so much ― my man is

Finally coming back home ― spring will finally come back to me

After sucking the whole outside into himself, the man shuts the window

And belches loudly as if to have me inhale an aphrodisiac

No one is more timid than him of the solitude of walking downhill alone

The disheveled woman continues: “I once visited an ex-soldier

Who returned from the same battlefield ― ‘Was your husband also

On that front?’ ― ‘Yes’ ― ‘The enemy was so good-hearted there ―

I was given a return permit right after sloppy inquiries, so I believe

Madam, your hubby will show up in your doorway soon’”

The old woman thrusts her head into the big river to the point of her shoulders

And restarts gulping down the muddy waters ― her gurgle echoes in the jungle

Her daughter says: “This is her only way to salvage my father from the riverbed”

My third eye on my forehead, which has long remained shut, now opens slowly

And poses a question to me: “The reason why you are not allowed to go out is

That this nation selected you as the living god before your first period, isn’t it?

Deep Waters" by Audrey Kawasaki

The daughter continues: “Another reason why my mother soaks her head this way

Is that she wants to hide her tears ― weeping in public is a disgrace for a soldier’s wife”

The river remains the same, for the old woman sobs as much as she swallows the waters

The very moment the man begins to approach my naked body again

His body bursts into smithereens ― all the outer world turns into the sea of atoms

And fills this small room ― now I’m a flower of desire blooming on the seabed

The tube-dangling face is lifted again ― the wet slimy lips may remind you of

A leech mouthing everything filthy and making it transparent with all its saliva

The lips whisper: “All good ― no triumph here, but no defeat here, either

My third eye starts staring at my other self floating all by itself

Through the bottom of the void expanding beyond the closed window

How degenerate its brain, internal organs, and womb look ― like a leech

Who is looking down on its hover from above? ― whose wet face is that?


Born in the city of Hiroshima, Goro Takano (髙野吾朗) is a Japanese native living in Japan. He is currently an assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Saga University, Japan, where he teaches English and Japanese/Western literature. His first novel 'With One More Step Ahead' was published in US by BlazeVOX in 2009. His first poetry collection 'Responsibilities of the Obsessed' (2013) and his second poetry collection 'Silent Whistle-Blowers' (2015) were also published in US by BlazeVOX. 'On Lost Sheep', his translation of the Japanese modernist poet Shiro Murano's 1959 award-winning poetry collection, was published in US by Tinfish in 2017.

Deep Waters" by Audrey Kawasaki

If you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines:

Cover photo: "Deep Waters" by Audrey Kawasaki



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