A Poet's Kiss

Albuquerque poet Mary Oishi puts poems, pictures, and thoughts here for her family and friends, and for lovers of poetry everywhere.

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States

Thursday, July 05, 2007

fifty-three stations of tokaido

mother, slowly atoning for doing
what you had to do
given what you saw when you were in your homeland
given what you had to give up to marry the enemy
given you could never go home again
given you were repeatedly betrayed
and, after nearly forty years in america
still died a stranger

yet you stretch yourself from beyond to make amends
to bring me back to your motherbreasts
by bringing me back to the womb of what made you
by sending me an emissary from your war-gouged generation
whose heart even a nuclear weapon could not destroy
she assured me you loved me
she said you loved me so much in fact
that's why i was so drawn to you
that your love yearned me into seeking it
all the way across the continent
that's what i feel so strongly
she told me with the conviction of a saint

i believed her then
i believe her now
because it's still reaching me
across the divide between
life and mystery
across the generations
calling my daughter to japan
so i would follow
calling their reporter to my door
calling me to return as more than tourist
but speechmaker, poet, hungry-hearted lost child
finding my way to the seed of me
ancient cherry-blossomed spawning place
for half of me (always buried
just beyond where i could see)
only glimpses in books
in a few artifacts left behind
but always two-dimensional and fairy tale

then to ride a bike down the raised paths
between its rice patties!
for fuji to preside over the actual horizon
instead of lying flat and mute
between the mat, behind the glass
to be greeted in her language
touch her fabrics, smell her rivers after a rain
ride her fast train, her shinkanzen
hurling down the ancient path
on my way to kyoto
with hiroshige's 53 stations of tokaido
muffled over loudspeakers
as stops along the route

now not one momento of your japan
would be flat for me
not even on the thinnest paper
it is forever raised far more than bas relief
those memories, mythical pageants
a pilgrimage to heal

now that i am back home
on the continent where you birthed me
(then lost me)
where even after reconciliation and death
you are not done yearning me
to your motherbreasts
you move one who loves me
to give me her inheritance
to feel it, call it, make it mine
hiroshige's 53 stations of tokaido
in an old silk crane-bound book
of the one thousand cranes you were
you sent me a few engraved on its cover
when i opened its pages i wept

this is my inheritance

a print of fuji in autumn
another of fuji in spring, flooded ricefields below
i hung them up right away
they bring back scenes for me, yes
but more, they bring me peace
japan has come to visit me
the old one you remember
you have come with it, mother
smelling of early twentieth century silk

mary oishi
30 june 2007