3. Recourse (March 11, 2011)
March 11, 2011 and three fishermen
are out at sea
off the northeast coast of Japan.
Let's call them Kikuchi, Sasaki
& Suzuki— common family names
of the region.
At 1440 hours
they hear the earthquake warning
and 15 minutes later
the tsunami warning.
They hear the jisshin was 9.2
on the Japanese scale
but how can that be?
The scale goes only
up to 7.
Kikuchi, the leader, tells
Sasaki & Suzuki
to head out to sea
"We must meet the wave head-on,"
he tells them.
"It's our only recourse —
there's nowhere else to go."
Half an hour later
they see the wave
a rolling mountain
on the far horizon
or rather, obliterating
the horizon altogether.
All together they head for the wave.
"90 degrees," Kikuchi warns them.
"Make sure to take it head-on —
The boats and the wave move
inexorably toward each other
steadily, no hurry
like two old lovers
meeting by chance
on a lonely city sidewalk
"Keep your eyes on the wave"
Kikuchi tells them
"Head-on, head-on, 90 degrees —
don't be afraid."
Head-on, head-on, Kikuchi meets the wave
and climbs, the boat
bends over backward
rises like a rocket
to the celestial crest
then - over the top —
and the long slide down
the back of this brontosaurus
of the sea.
Out the starboard window
he spots Sasaki
"Good job, Sasaki-san," he spouts
in the radio mike
Out the port side window
he sees the roiling sea.
"Can you see Suzuki?" he calls.
Sasaki doesn't answer.
"Sasaki," he calls again
"Sasaki—can you hear me?
"Sasaki!" he cries
"Can you hear me?"
"I hear you."
2. Fear & Rumor (June11, 2011)
We’ve been waiting for three days
here on Tokashiki Island
in the Ryukyus
Finally, a tuna boat comes in -
the Mayu Maru, Captain Fujiwara
He’s got three yellowfin tuna –
two juveniles – Okinawans
call them shibi -
and one adult
It’s 35 kilos, sashimi grade
a beautiful fish if truth be told
it gleams in the sun
lifts it from the hold.
Captain Tamaki, of the Fishing Co-op
on the cell-phone
looking for a buyer.
They used to sell to Taipei & Shanghai
but no more – Taiwan & China
refuse all seafood from Japan.
“We’re in the East China Sea, for God’s sake”
says Captain Tamaki, “Over a thousand miles
from Fukushima – and still
they won’t buy our fish”
An hour passes
finally, a buyer in Manila
In Shanghai this fish is worth
a thousand dollars
Manila offers seven-fifty
Captain Fujiwara accepts
“Shipping costs will be higher too”
1. Recovery (September11, 2011)
The harbor is clean
There is no damage to be seen
except some cracks
in the concrete
of the breakwater
across the bay
But that could have come
from anywhere –
a coastal freighter
dragging its mooring
in a summer typhoon.
Where is the debris –
the garbage & wreckage
of the earthquake
the flotsam & jetsam
of the killer wave?
I know the answer –
I’ve seen the trash mountain
rising out of a rice field
from the railway platform
the last stop before the end of the line
here in Oarai.
The huge Kubota traxcavators
climbing the refuse mountain
look like Tonka Toys
in a little boy’s backyard.
This mountain is the harbor
and the waterfront
of Oarai – forty fishing boats
bent & twisted car doors
houses deconstructed into muddy junk.
But the harbor now is clean
The work of hundreds -
volunteers, patriots of Oarai
fishermen, City Hall clerks
heavy equipment operators
high school athletes
teachers, parents, visitors
from Tokyo & Kobe & Katmandu
And now the harbor is clean
Then the silence cracks
breaks like a wooden house
in the jaws of the jisshin
as the Japanese call “earthquake”
as two fishing boats round the point
and enter the clean silent harbor
from the Pacific
and the muffled rumble of their engines
brings the silent immaculate harbor to life.
They are not big boats –
4.9 ton registry
to avoid paying the higher fees
of the 5 to 10 ton fleet
They’ve been dragging for whitebait
which the Japanese call shirasu
They eat them raw or steamed
as topping for bowls of rice
garnished with thin yellow strips
with pickled daikon radish
and miso shiru on the side.
Do I dare eat a serving for lunch?
I’m served a bowl of rice with topping
the Japanese call this donburi
the topping is steamed shirasu
the Japanese call this dish
The Japanese say “Umai!”
After lunch I visit the Fisheries Office
with the Town Clerk.
They apologize – they can’t give me
any data – all their records
their computers – washed away
They tell me there were 105 boats
in the fishery
29 were damaged or destroyed
or washed away
Most were fishing, out to sea
but most of those in the harbor
were damaged or destroyed
or washed away.
Today, six months on
80 boats are able to fish
but most are not fishing
they sit in the immaculate harbor
March 15th and 16th in Tokyo
by Kenneth Shima on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 10:38am
Yesterday was bad. Grey and colder than the previous: a misty slate-colored sky that felt welcoming to nuclear wind. City life felt muffled as the normal drone and brightness of the metropolis was tempered by electricity rationing. Fewer trains, fewer commuters, people quiet with their coffee and cigarettes as if neither had flavor but we suck it down anyway, for comfort. Shopping bags spill onto the sidewalk, fallen from a goods-laden bicycle, it's Japan so no one bothers to steal, yet no one picks up either.
People in Tokyo hastened plans to move to the west. From abroad more messages of care urging us to move somewhere else. From Tokyo friends I read messages of safely arriving elsewhere: Paris, Seoul, Okinawa, Osaka, or Kyushu.
I went out, took care of paperwork at the town office, had a burger with Mo, then made dinner for my co-workers at the bar, and dinner at home. I don't remember falling asleep. All of this normalcy is interlaced with moments where we feel compelled to make decisions for our own safety, and ultimately, decisions we feel could effect our mortality. Passing toilet paper lines twenty deep at the drugstore I can feel the growing tension. I wouldn't call it panic, rather the consumer-provider relationship is breaking down. You can't simply buy what you want when you want it, yet we've grown up in a world where the most common response to anxiety is to consume.
The geiger counter spiked in mid afternoon and we too thought of how we could flee and not be here. I wonder what sense of relief comes from not being here? This question made the day more difficult than any aftershock, grey sky, or consumer hoarding. People are getting out, on trains, planes, and buses. I found myself rushing to finish cooking the staff meal at the restaurant. I rushed because at that moment dusk arrived and the divide between "life as usual" and "we're getting the fuck outta here!" resounded in my mind causing a sense of limbo, of fear of rain, of exposure, at the same time spiriting me toward home but away from home.
Today is a beautiful spring day and businessmen push baby carts in the clear(?) morning air. As I take out the trash a dolled-up girl fingers her cellphone while piloting her bike with the other hand. Birds sing, peach trees are in bloom.
There are many things I need to do in preparation for moving home but the pace of progress has turned glacial. I don't want to ride trains and my normal alternative, a bike, also bears a sense of exposure. I will spend today packing, cleaning.
Watch minimal news and read few articles. If my friend's emails are too panicky or too detailed about the "hanging in the balance" state of the meltdown I pass over those too. I watch the geiger counter. I am unable to make the "next step" come to fruition.
"are you guys gonna go?"
It's necessary to go out and see that 33 million metropolis of Tokyo continues to flow. Shops are open, papers are delivered, trash is picked up. If we stay inside closed rooms, illuminated by news screens and a solitary fear of irradiation, we might go crazy. We don't have it so bad in Tokyo. As the center of the country, as the metropole, we are also centered on ourselves. We are turning the disaster in on ourselves with our escape plans and stockpiling. My Japanese relatives are all staying here and this makes us stay here. This stubborn sentiment is of a sense of place. Foreigners are quicker to move elsewhere, we are already temporary, but Japanese friends and family (and myself too) are tied to each other in a net that binds our world, this place, together. It is relationship of emotional, biological, give and take of energy that is the basis for a sense of place. Place make us reluctant to tear that net, for to depart from that relationship undermines our being.
Aftershocks continue with some force. Even in our current earthquake-acclimated state, one tremor last night sent us into doorways or out to the streets. We are plagued by a phantom wobble that could always become something greater.
Motoko's brother said something interesting on the phone yesterday that I've been trying to understand: he doesn't mind being swept away by a tsunami or crushed in an earthquake, but he cannot forgive or accept death by an unnatural disaster like radiation. I think I'm starting to understand what this means: to be killed by a random act of nature retains one's balance with earthly existence but in the man-made causality of a nuclear disaster we can find no such randomness or balance. In this sense, people's fear is tied to a much deeper sense of regret at our human condition itself: as progenitor and failed master of a world we created.
Tamagawa River wakes up at night
to the harmony of a saxophone band
on the Tokyo shore
near the concrete footings
of the Tokyu railway bridge.
Beneath the bridge, on the Kawasaki side
apprentice saxophonists practice
their precarious calling
while over in the Big Mikan
in the riverside jazz bar
the Witch of the Alto Sax wails
like a besotted Banshee
in the cobalt night.
She’s the top slice of the sandwich
while the jealous tenor
who’s the real meat
scats atonal half-notes
across the indigo water
against the metallic ozone sky
and the crust – he be the Witch’s main man –
he be the baritone
Under the clattering railway bridge
the banished baritones
howl at the steel wheels above…
across the confluence
in infernal Tokyo
the demonic drummer
rides the high hat
with a touch-too-heavy hand.
The past is already past.
Don't try to regain it.
The present does not stay.
Don't try to touch it.
From moment to moment.
The future has not come;
Don't think about it
Whatever comes to the eye,
Leave it be.
There are no commandments
To be kept;
There's no filth to be cleansed.
With empty mind really
Penetrated, the dharmas
Have no life.
When you can be like this,
The ultimate attainment.
Layman P'ang (740-808)
dharma: Sanskrit, teaching that reflects the true law or order of the universe.
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that
there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.
Without a cloud there will be no water;
without water, the trees cannot grow;
and without trees, you cannot make paper.
So the cloud is in here.
The existence of this page is dependent
upon the existence of a cloud.
Paper and cloud are so close.
Thich Nhat Hahn
Found in Entering the Stream, 1993, p. 248
An Aussie wanted to share this with everyone. Enjoy!
Quotes taken from YouTube:
Day breaks, out of tune,
and morning finds its way, half-heartedly
to its well worn pedestal.
and the sheets are stained again
with the boredom of insistence of existence.
A howling routine.
And a calendar is checked,
(always full of hope that it will tell me something more).
Is it yesterday? Tomorrow? Or today?
I position myself, straight backed upon the waiting room chair,
and waste away the beginning of another other day.
and a cup of wishful thinking,
and listen to the walls groaning
and the neighbours singsong sighing.
There’s a lethargy out there.
Harsh words scrape at the door.
An afternoon hides behind household chores.
And fuss and ado play charades in the yard.
She has seen the undead blinking.
(Or does she mean they’re winking?)
As she sits giggling at the in joke
Written long ago today.
What’s it like to have never been?
To turn a corner, never seen?
To turn another…
Where was I? And now I’m not.
I search and see not even, what could have ...
What’s it like to be in between?
A time…a place…..
My defining moment. Good grief!
What’s it like to have disappeared?
Or worse. Thrown out with the trash
and pissed on by the cat.
(No. I’ll have none of that.)
What’s it like to have disappeared?
An empty space?
A weeping sore?
A crashing bore?
A deaf ear turned?
A history burned?
A future scorned?
A lethargy born?
What’s it like to be in between?
Is it like a tiresome day?
Is it like a routine way?
No. None of that.
And not soon enough, evening arrives.
And squats and takes a pee,
and extinguishes any hope of an unexpected tomorrow.
Joe the Plumber
Say it ain't so, Joe!
Sweetness breathes lightly beside me tonight,
Honored lips, color red with kissed delight,
Forgotten songs stir, and play with desire's intentions,
And smiles take on new meaning.
Embellished words in silence, almost spoken.
Such moments were gone before we even got started.
Smiles cruelly broken,
crimson fell dark.
Sweet songs lied
and we were left to die,
in suffocating times.
Love banished and tenderness a crime.
Eyes drip with understanding.
Bodies heave with conversation.
on pink magnolia wings.
Everybody looks different but says the same thing.
I prefer everybody to look the same but speak differently.
All trees have different shades but say nothing.
I prefer everybody to look different but remain silent.