SBP Blog

Stone Bridge Cafe: "An Aquatic Flower"

Thomas Joel - 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”
Stone Bridge Cafe
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?
Stone Bridge Cafe
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.

Stone Bridge Cafe

(Goro Takano)

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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