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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Epicanthus

As we wish you all a wonderful dive into the heat of summer, I am excited to help celebrate the upcoming release of the Epicanthus poetry chapbook by Bloomington, Indiana-based Hiromi Yoshida. While the book’s title harkens toward a condition of obscured views, Hiromi's writing beautifully cuts right through the serpentine surroundings of her experience and that of the world beyond. The selections provided here give a sneak peek into the book’s movement and language and more importantly, Hiromi’s poetic, discerning eye on the material all around us. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Hiromi Yoshida, one of Bloomington’s finest and most outspoken poets, is a finalist for the 2019 New Women’s Voices Poetry Prize for Icarus Burning (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and a semifinalist for the 2020 Gerald Cable Book Award for Green Roses Bloom for Icarus. She is the diversity consultant for the Writers Guild at Bloomington, and the poetry workshop leader for the award-winning VITAL program at the Monroe County Public Library. She also serves as a poetry reader for Flying Island and Plath Profiles, and as a copy editor for Gidra. Her poems have been nominated for inclusion in the Sundress Best of the Net anthology, and have been added to the INverse Poetry Archive. She enjoys picking up new Japanese idioms by checking out YouTubes of J-popstar interviews and variety TV shows.

 

Umami

Essential component,
           a challenge to capture like slippery eel,
                                 yet to be broiled in soy sauce, sugar, and mirin
(think unagi). Umami,

the balance of all five flavors, countable on one hand:
sweet, salty, bitter, sour, spicy—
blending into one lovely flavor with the opening of buds—
the ripening of seasons—the precarious

balancing act—slippery
                       acrobatics across the thick porous tongue.

Godwind

The planes deliberately collided into the World
Trade Center, North and South Towers,
like steel-winged Icarus, twinned, burning—

kamikaze crash and decimation—the shredded paper gods shedding green
       pennies and white hair—the Manhattan skyline was a smoggy plexiglass altar
where dreams were
                               sacrificed to the rising sun (that smirking bastard). Pedestrians coughed, gagged on

the foretaste of phoenix ash; black stench
of needless apocalypse clogged
       nostrils—resurrection an unwritten blueprint drifting on wayward godwind—

till roses in brownstone bay window boxes bloomed into bruised
mouths blowing coronavirus kisses.

Googling Monika

I never knew my German cousin
past the scrawny childhood
we both outgrew so rapidly—
nor her spectacled, gold-haired father,
photographed with her kimono-clad mother,
my Aunt Kuniko. Yet,

that intricate marital knot; that postwar
alliance between Axis powers
they’d beautifully embodied
promised to lift Aunt Kuniko from
dark cellars where potatoes were
stored, and secretly gnawed—
toward luminous, guttural realms,
where the obligatory obi would no longer cut
short her laughing breath. The fire and

ash of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen;
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—are my cousin
Monika’s twin legacies, folded into her
embroidered kimono sleeves, like over-
ripe persimmons. She

is the cousin who slipped through the cracks of
Grandmother’s ramshackle Suna-machi house—
evaporating into rainbowed skies—now, intact,
and smiling on Google.

*This poem is copyrighted by Hiromi Yoshida and will be included in Epicanthus (Finishing Line Press, 2021).

 

© 2021 Hiromi Yoshida

Epicanthus Hiromi Yoshida Nikkei Uncovered poet poetry

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.