SBP Blog

Stone Bridge Cafe: "An Aquatic Flower"

Intern Intern - Friday, November 17, 2017

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”

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?

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.

(Goro Takano)

If you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines: http://www.stonebridge.com/sbp-blog/stone-bridge-cafe-guidelines-submission-info

Cover photo: "Deep Waters" by Audrey Kawasaki


Like our blog? Please share it!

Categories

Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan


Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

Easy and Fun Katakana


Learn the second key Japanese syllabary from every angle: reading, writing, and real-world examples.

Exploring Kyoto


This revised and updated edition of the Japan travel classic and cultural guide gets you wandering from downtown quarters to remote mountaintop temples and features expanded information on new museums and gardens now open year-round for viewing.


The Fourth String


Two women. Two cultures. One music.

Tag Cloud

non-fiction ritual Year of the Dog Christianity Chinese culture japan restaurant forewrod reviews indies understandind china through comics four immigrants amys guide to best behavior in japan comic history student teacher asia books japan book new release Second World War classic japanese literature 2020 Olympics poetry of consciousness Japanese aesthetics amys guide to bes tbehavior in japan musical journal my year of dirt and water green tea center of east asian studies PEN AWARD rachel manley guide will eisner japan behavior pottery chinese comics internment review etiquette Okinawan literature learning in japan book reading university of chicago Tokyo Olympics manga biography shun medoruma author event japanese instruments tokyo book tour behavior walt disney the millions memior bowing in japan best behavior in japan traditional japanese instrument Translation stone bridge press japanese drunk japanese instrument WWII amy chavez zen UCLA literary prize Japan visitor Chiune Sugihara kyodo news literary review japan books giajin japan culture finalist religion hate huffpost danica davidson ningen shikkaku Chinese history book signing japanese culture japanese travel travel Japan memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist benjamin franklin award author performance tracy franz photography Spring Festival haiku japanese etiquette tea no longer human catcher in the rye History Poetry japan etiquette event monk Chinese New Year japanese people Olympics black jack lions roar Spirituality AAS journal of a zen monks wife in japan hiroaki sato Basho's Narrow Road japan memoir award the hidden writer ancient symbols dark horse 1960s Korea japanese bath tricycle magazine seppuku Nikolas Bunton eating in japan traditional min kahng Children's Literature publicity stone bridge cafe sensei 1960's Japan IBPA Christianity in Japan disney kansuke naka manners suicide japan today foreword indies World War II japanese hooked cross gaijin pot tk nakagaki peace what do in japan Korea japan custom anime evil huffington post Japanese art Language fred schodt japanese cutlure China Chinese Astrology shamisen performance japan trip buddhist buddhist priest japan guide swastika comics hitlers cross jun hazuki japan travel yukio mishima japanese books in english washington dc welton gaddy michael emmerich otakuusa monk wife william f sibley new books american shamisen Anime/Manga/Comics literature book award fantasy literature the buddhist swastika tourist Alexandra Johnson traditional japanese instrumenet t.k. nakagaki jared cook japanese books japan food state of belief Culture suehiro maruo book review graphic novels alan moore Japanese literature Travel world literature today politics and prose buddhism kinokuniya event monks wife book talk book publicity illustration hippocampus magazine how to order in japan announcement zazen astro boy japanese classic zen monk polite in the woods of memory hitler the japan society 2019 blurb Basho nichi bei weekly, naomi hirarahara author signing book blurb Children's Books learning shamisen leonard koren how to travel in japan memoir sensei and me astrology verticle a memoir juddhism asian review of books buddhist symbols diary osamu dazai nara donald keene haibun VIZ classic bookstore Interview kyoto the japan times expat china history matcha travel to japan The Colorado Review koun Ukiyo-e a shameful life Coming of Age Day japanese customs gratitude in japan Asian Studies tea garden ex pat literature reviews journal' monks wife gaijinpot drinking in japan book hoarding eastern and western philosophy brad hawley Japanese holidays alan brill shamisen dazai the silver spoon Korea photography janet pocorobba purification manga wife osaka living in japan jing liu nazi how to ancient symbol book Shoah henry kiyama holocaust buddhist swastika osamu tezuka japanese book new york author tour foreword reviews World War Two damian flanagan frederik schodt mark gibeau holden caufield Art/Design the fourth string publishing journal of a zen monk's wife takuma sminkey
RSS