hobart logo

November 17, 2014 Poetry

6 Poems

Keiko Watanabe

6 Poems photo

Polyphase Signals

I sit in the morning garden
from last night’s rain

ants run in circles
the iron table   except

for one   perched on the
of my Mother’s teacup



the crickets
keep me
awake at night

and in the
keep me from

sleeping late
I have tea in
the garden They

are quiet
for a moment
before the eldest

steps forward
My apologies
We did not mean to

disturb you
We just
wanted to talk


You are expected to care for your parents
when they get old   You live in a small bokkusu
a box, until you are placed in a slightly smaller
one   The walls of your house are paper thin
The group is everything and you are nothing
Work is your second family   You stay there
all day six days a week and are often required
to drink and carouse together when work is done

You are pushed back and forth in a metal tube
between family and second family   You worship
ancestors and hide your dreams in empty
transistor radios   We Japanese have no word for
privacy but we can buy anything we want
from a vending machine because sometimes
we can’t bear to have one more face pointed
at us while we lead our impersonal lives


Ti-tan-i-cu (1997)

I am six weeks old   strapped into the
car seat   Father carries me up the
staircase   arm bulging   neck veins

climbing to the surface of his pale
skin   We are going to a party   I
have heard them talking   I know

almost everything except how to
explain this fact   A gang of uni
formed schoolgirls screeches from

the landing above   Tie-nee ba-bee!
Tie-nee ba-bee!   You’d think I was
Leonardo DiCaprio   Father is scared

He turns from the yelping girls
holds out his arm as if against an
assailant   The girls become quiet

Mother and father look so worried  
with ugly   corrugated foreheads   
but I knew it would be okay

I    knew    the    whole    time



The water trade   mizu-shōbai   is a
respectable 400 years old

It refers to hostess bars and escorts
but not necessarily sex

This is a floating world of drinks
and anonymity   words

and dreams that can never come true
Men with wives pay

good money to speak with young
women   This practice

teaches us that everything is transient

nothing solid    life is stable and
structured as water    men

will reach the moon before learning
to speak with a woman


Why is the famous writer so famous?

::  he takes many things from a foreign
land mixes them with what is our own

sells it all back to the foreign people as
something new and collects awards

for national pride and a job well done


image: Keiko Watanabe