Grandfather’s apartment. She picks up a photo
“A heavy, dusty book,” she calls it.
I ask her, “Will I go to war?”
Holding a vacuum cleaner, she says,
“I want your pain.” In the smallest
room, my sister cries, her growing teeth.
Grandfather watches TV on the highest volume,
He lost his voice seventeen years ago,
stroke. This mouth, and the quietness—
like the people in those black and white photos.
Piles of Jewish clothes, glasses, and hair,
half-naked bodies and holes in the ground,
their stark tongues with dirt in their mouths.
A last word adheres to their throats.
After the atomic bomb in Hiroshima,
Grandfather stood alone on a black hill.
He saw nothing but smoke.
Burnt skin hanging from arms.
Under the August sky, his mother
listened to an imperial speech from a radio.
Japan was lost. Mud beneath her finger nails.
Miles away from home,
he listened to that speech. A stranger
gave him a towel.
A white towel. He wiped his face.
It smelled like dandelions; mother’s hands.
The Coldest Day Is For Beans
A bumble bee hive swayed;
never seen them flying. Sleet
hid the oval shape.
Grandmother lit kitchen stoves
and kerosene-oil heaters.
Azuki-beans drained in the strainer.
No sugar yet. Bitterness must be gone.
I changed the water
and placed them back into the pot.
All windows fogged.
Cooking air condensed.
Can I add now?
She curled her back and fell asleep.
Her forehead touched the tatami-mattress.
In Lawrenceville; Honeymoon
Time and again; time and again; I sit
and stay in my Japanese body; no
dining table: eight months and three
thousand dollars an Asian
or Pacific Islander resident.
Immigrant; it’s pending: I can do
nothing: I am
nothing until it clears; I can’t hire you
secretaries treat me as an illegal
alien, warn my red
passport will expire soon. I smack
a laundry basket into a chair I feel
accomplished in this country; in Lawrenceville,
blocks down from a Catholic church: we rent
an apartment behind a gas station.
-from Where I Was Born (Aquarius Press/Willow Books/AUXmedia, 2019), selected by Fall 2020 PoemoftheWeek.com Guest Editor Angela Narcisco Torres
Naoko Fujimoto was born, raised in Nagoya, Japan, and studied at Nanzan Junior College. She was an exchange student and received a B.A. and M.A. from Indiana University. Her forthcoming poetry collections are "Where I Was Born", winner of the editor's choice by Willow Books (2019), "Glyph:Graphic Poetry=Trans. Sensory" by Tupelo Press (2020), and "Mother Said, I Want Your Pain", winner of the Shared Dream Immigrant Contest by Backbone Press (2018). Her first chapbook, “Home, No Home” (2016), won the annual Oro Fino Chapbook Competition by Educe Press and another short collection, “Silver Seasons of Heartache” (2017) by Glass Lyre Press, are available from each press. She is a RHINO associate & out-reach translating editor.