Tsunami Letter—March 2011
Shunning the safety of high ground
when the tide rips and sirens howl,
I will head out to sea as in Hokusai’s painting.
Only now do we understand
the ferocious curl of those painted waves.
Before the first deadly one crashes
abolishing shores, I touch Japanese collective
memories of waves past, locked
in my American bones.
I am brimming with wave fractals,
variations of the same pattern
repeating over centuries, folk tales
of Momotaro, the boy hero spawned
from a giant peach to slay demons and ogres,
and the Shimomura brothers, samurai who commit
double suicide—stabbing and slashing each other,
face to face until they are waves, simply
crashing across each other’s shoulders.
When my bones wash ashore,
burn them in a stack of driftwood.
Open them with flames and smoke their
cacophony of ashes in sky-swirl,
spread them across miles
of beach and cloud drift.
Memories like a million
radioactive particles escape,
glow and flutter towards
the lights of San Francisco,
the wheat fields of Kansas,
then fall like a rain
of Japanese Icaruses
over America’s heartland,
fragments of a forever-foreigner
who insists on coming home.