Katsue Suzuki

June 2, 2012
At a Café in Tokyo

It’s been a year
since the dis­as­ter in March,
uncov­er­ing what
I’ve been, what I’ve had
or haven’t.
Still don’t know what to do
or choose—
even lunch time,
I bury my emp­ty face
in the menu
writ­ten in both
Japanese and English.

As if noth­ing hap­pened,
noth­ing came from Fukushima—
I have a cup of cof­fee, milk sink­ing
into my black.

People come and go
in a frame­work
of cloudy glass­es,
invis­i­ble ash­es go with the wind
set­tling on someone’s
shoul­ders
spray­ing someone’s
face—

Maybe the face of a California roll
is more live­ly,
with fresh cucum­ber, crab meat, avo­ca­do wrapped
in cooked rice.


I am waver­ing on this wavered island
with­out grip­ping an axis
of his­to­ry.

A Japanese old­ster said,
after WWII,
bread and milk
with eat­ing irons
arrived in com­pul­so­ry
edu­ca­tion.
For nine years,
schools have fed them
to kids
for lunch time
instead of rice and miso-soup.

Recollecting child­hood,
my grand­ma, a native of Fukushima,
wor­ried about me drop­ping
cooked rice
from a pair of chop­sticks.
The more I was forced,
the more the meal reced­ed
from my will.
She asked me, “Why
doesn’t your teacher teach how to use them?”
I couldn’t say to her
we were com­fort­able
with sil­ver tools.


In the mod­ern world,
we Japanese became suc­cess­ful
and pow­er­ful
as we began to stab meat
with a fork,
cut it with a knife.
I believed
we healed the scars
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
with good mechan­i­cal skills
proud of made in Japan.

Here at the Tokyo café,
my iPhone shows work­ers cov­er­ing white clothes with masks
in the uncov­ered Fukushima,
dis­play­ing my own pow­er­less­ness.

Maybe I’ve been drop­ping some­thing impor­tant
from a pair of chop­sticks.

I feel a hole
in his­to­ry, of igno­rance
inside me—

From the kitchen,
I smell a dough­nut with a hole in it
bub­bling, float­ing on oil.

~

Katsue Suzuki is liv­ing in Tokyo, Japan. Her poet­ry has appeared in The Laurel Review, New Orleans Review, Southern Poetry Review, and oth­ers.