Three Poems

By: Sophia Terazawa



Kamiyo after the Age of Gods

                                  I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.
                                 —J. Robert Oppenheimer: father of the atomic bomb

                                 city of 300,000
                                 can we forget that silence?
                                 —Sankichi Tōge: poet, activist, survivor of the atomic bomb

太陽 (taiyō), in which my father’s country sold itself,
in which a clearing, in which a blast, a taiko,
taiko’s thunder beat

and knocks like tongue against its roof like hollow,
hollow sticks colliding. But gentle, they are only
milkweed in the sun.

太陽 (taiyō), another entity, 太陽 (taiyō), in which
a Kami held himself, the haze, a clearing
made of ash,

bony fingers rising, each one a groan, a psalm,
a stalk, like pines burnt down where once
were people swaying,

太陽 (taiyō), in which I ground the country’s name
between my gums and felt its teeth among,
my teeth. I felt, too,

the melting down. Two cities into ore, the proof
that one had died before the other, and with
this touch of night, I saw

太陽 (taiyō), below unspeakable skies, 太陽 (taiyō)
behind a backlit hand, which flattened yet
another place and called it

unmarked, grave.



Advice from Ojiisan’s Hungry Ghost Who Becomes the Toad

Emi-chan:      a girl’s life is only difficult
                        because you make it so.

Emi-chan:      I’m waiting for you in a house
                        off Parker and Ohio.

                        Grapefruit water fills the bath.

                        I saved your violin.

                        By a window.  By a door.

Ii nioi desu ne—the scent of lemongrass and moonlight.

Give me balm for shumai wedged between
my larynx and a lily pad, catching shade of
mars. I cannot breathe. Oh, I am so hungry.

Green tea on my tongue. Green-tongued pink magnolia
curling over piece of prawn, a piece of what may likely
kill me in your mother’s house—

say gero gero like the toads near Kyūshū.

Ii nioi desu ne—stars above a broken cello beckons rain.

Gero gero, Emi-chan.

                        Gero gero, over here.

Emi-chan:      I am filled with pizzicato and dark red beets. They
                        stain my hands with grapefruit. They stain the bath.

Emi-chan:      I croak, no more your grandfather than mythic creature
                         in the woods. Listen closely if you want to say farewell.

                         I turn into a toad.

Gero gero:      Home is how you make it so.

                        Gero gero, Emi-chan.



Princess Kaguya of the New World

How could you have known
I cared for you the way
a coal mine lets in light.

The blasted place left by dispersion of a people.

Meaning, man meet man at river’s edge
before striking each other with their fists.

Inside the heart of pig.

Inside the heart of crouching mantis opening its heart
inside the heart of wooly mammoth petrified for eons.

And I had cut it open with a blade.

And I had forced my hand inside the chest of

           man meet man at world war’s end.

                        How could they have known
                        captivity can change the way
                        a human crosses borders.

The ground spoke back, revealed your face.

I clung to it like miners lowered one by one
into the earth. They reached down with their lanterns

for a path into the darkness no one chose to show them.

And what I found was milk inside this world
as though the moon had left behind a lake of tears.

Kaguya: like you, I am in exile
and doomed to love the sky too much.

Like you, I am a folk song
only hummed by dusk,
for I’ve forgotten
all the words.

I’ve never heard a sunrise spoken back to me.

I’ve never seen my homeland in the absence of its craters.

I’ve never touched my father’s palm.

I’ve never touched my mother’s text in someone else’s body.

I’ve axed my way through bedrock.

I’ve used black coal for eyes.

I’ve smelled the skin of frog legs burning to a golden harpsichord.

And chicken feet.

And serpent tail.

And tongue of bull.

I’ve tasted human shame upon the ring-stains of a mattress
turned into an altar, then a pestle, then some place of reckoning.

I’ve fallen ill from strawberries and pesticide,
unable to distinguish red from poisoned artery.

I’ve crawled out of an open jet-blue Mustang.

I’ve crawled out of two hatchbacks and another stranger in the beer belly of Texas.

I’ve travelled to the North and made no better choices with my mouth
turning to mortar then to stone.

How could you have known
that we were meant to find each other
in the ruins of a cavern.

I’ve turned into a nocturne.

I’ve turned into three silent moons.

How could you have known
I fought to stay this life
if only as a song.



Sophia Terazawa

Sophia Terazawa is the author of I AM NOT A WAR (Essay Press).

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