"Kozashi chi no hadae ya kiku no nirinzaki"
I collect my gifts from the North Pacific Ocean -
Green and shimmery purple seaweed like lasagna noodles
Laid out to dry on my sidewalk
The mackerel shrivel outside my window -
Filled with salt, the skin draws taut
as if shrunk with fear,
impaled by skewers all tied neatly -
Glints of silver scales boasting
To the dull daikon hung over the fence
I take down the wash,
Licked clean by the dry ocean wind
The shirts are stiff with salty air
I shimmy them between my hands,
Bunch them up to make them soft again
I notice my own hands as I tuck
My husband's silk shirt into its drawer -
Square and short, large as a man's.
As the silk catches on my broken skin,
I blame the rice fields, forty years
My fingers have dug into that ground
I recall from childhood
An exhibit of woodblock prints -
Geisha bathing each other at an onsen,
Combing raven hair with slight fingers
They called them primitive
How can they be primitive?
Child-women wrapped in kimono, hiding -
Sharp-angled as origami.
Gifts for the dinner table
printed across finely woven paper
as thick and glossy as fabric
Just a girl, I stood on tip-toe to feel
the shallow indentation of one perfect breast
with my little pinky - carved from a block.
How could a knife have created
something so tender, so round
From an obtuse block of wild wood?
Under the print the artist's words,
scratchy hiragana from 1758:
"her naked breasts are little rice scoops,
Now my husband is home
From Nippon Telegraph
smelling of his mistress -
We sit at our heated table, feet roasting
beneath our dinner of squid and daikon
He reaches over, shimmies my torso
with obligation, bunches up my breasts
to make them soft again -
My feet are so warm but
the heat stays under the table-
I am stiff with salty air
and the knowing that he's been touching
a girl whose fragile pinky
could fit into one perfect breast
© Jalina Mhyana
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