I remember driving up a mountain road so narrow
that when we met a truck coming the other way,
we had to go in reverse until the road widened
enough to pull off and let the truck pass.
I remember the whole town gathered on the temple grounds
as 1991 became 1992, everyone taking a turn
at grabbing the big mallet and pounding the mochi
that would be eaten on New Year’s Day.
I remember the three high school girls on their bikes
catching sight of me on a side street, screaming,
then whipping their bicycles around to pedal
furiously in the opposite direction.
I remember walking house to house, dressed
as a demon, throwing beans through open doors,
shouting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” —
then it was back to the tea shop and Hidetaka’s smile.
I remember playing Shoko’s piano late at night
while everyone else was asleep, trying to play
very quietly so as not to awaken anyone,
enjoying my first house with a piano in it.
I remember miso soup with little clams,
beef tongue cooked by Sanriku‘s chef,
those little pure-sugar candies at tea ceremony,
the constant availability of steaming hot rice.
I remember the backyard cookout, “American-style,”
with me in my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt at the head
of a long table filled with school friends
and teenaged cousins who came for the occasion.
I remember lying on the couch, head in Reiko’s lap,
feeling a little lost and a little lonely,
taking comfort in this second mother
who treated me like one of her own children.
I remember Mizuho’s plaid sport coat,
or at least I think I do, and Teto’s head
popping out of a food container, and Vulfi’s
upturned tail and eager expression.
I remember filming videos around town with Kazuhiro,
who seemed so much more sophisticated than I was,
with his international friends and command of English
and his TMN and Southern All-Stars albums.
I remember the person I was when I went back home,
and how he had changed from the boy who’d arrived,
not speaking a word of Japanese, overwhelmed and confused,
and how this new young man would never be the same.
/ / /
11 May 2022
(Note: I forgot that I’ve already written a poem called “natsukashii,” which you can read here.)