Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Do You Like America?


"How Do You Like America?"
Keiko Matsui Gibson
1994


Taking off from Osaka
I saw my mother standing
with a handkerchief over her eyes
and my father trying to hide
a hole in his heart-mind.
Then my country blurred.

For seven years I have heard:
"Where do you come from?
China? Korea? Japan?
How long have you been in America?
Is your family still in Japan?
I sure bet they miss you!
Did you meet your husband there?
Does he speak Japanese?
You speak English very well!
Where did you learn to speak it?
How do you like America?"

I pity, fear, and love it.
America is huge and sick
optimistic and terrifying
immature but lovable.

Americans' friendly questions
dislocated my Japanese bones.
I automatically answered
like a dog watering its mouth:
"I was born in Kyoto, Japan.
It is a modern ancient city.
I've been in America since
Jimmy Carter was President.
My parents are still in Osaka.
Because I'm an only child
we miss each other a lot.
I met my husband at a bus stop
near Osaka University
where he taught.
He has been learning Japanese
ever since.
I have studied English
since I was 14.
Though I am working on a Ph.D.
English is still very strange."

"How do I like America?
I like America very much!
It's a beautiful country!
People are kind and friendly!
Life is so comfortable here!
Furnaces keep us warm!
Public places are clean!
Not so many people smoke
here as in Japan."

"So you are from Japan!
My son married a Korean
who eats kim chi on pancakes.
It's unbelievably hot!
Do you like it too?
My husband was in Japan after the War and loved it!
I used to know a Japanese girl in Hawaii.
She invited me for sushi and tea-ceremony.
Her name was Keeko too.
Her hair was so straight and black.
Such a cute little thing.
Japan is one of the places I'd love to visit some time.
It must be very beautiful.
My mother does flower-arranging in Traverse City.
How do you like America?"

How do I like America?
These cheerful Americans
much better at talking than listening
throw balls persistently without receiving any
and flash commercials of their lives.
Life goes on in many entangling circles.
Americans are hectic and confusing.
When do they calm down?
The land is airy, spacious, masculine.
No canes to hold to here, to stick to:
you can draw your own road where you wish.
It's a country of gushing power
uncontrollable.

Suspended between Japan and America
a stranger in both lands
alienating every being
I have stayed awake all night
hearing drips of
Japan America
Japan America
Japan America

I have lost myself many times
eroded by changing dogmas.
My friend A, becoming a separatist-lesbian
left me
like an old towel under the sink.
My friend B, a conservative pro-family housewife
insists only womanly virtues
are pleasing to her husband
producing many children.
My friend C cannot find a steady job
because he has long hair, like a little girl
and really believes in his poetry.
My friend D, always frustrated
about her health and family,
worries in a suffocating room
with no windows.
My friend E, embittered
by the political impasse
arrogantly retires to nature
to be a weekend hermit.
My friend F, still plays like a kid,
dreaming of making money
to buy perpetual comfort.

Divorce has forced many children
to fly through the air
helpless and resentful
their hearts beating in vain.
The word _Marriage_ rings hollow
The family is replaced by therapists.
As more people consume their energy
in jogging, aerobics, and health clubs
where is the food where it's needed
on the other side of the world?
People dread fat more than
nuclear bombs.

In Japan I was suffocated
panting for sheer freedom
but there I suffer from too much air
too chaotic to feel free.

My honeymoon with America
has ended
something has ended
I am ready for a separation.
America is blurring.
Just as we cannot count snowflakes
my karma piles up across the Pacific Ocean.

My parents are opening their eyes.
They see me winging to them.
In Japan I will speak again
transparently, as I wish
to mother, father, and strangers.
I simply want warmth of hands


I want tears turning me into a river.

1 comment:

Nelson Souzza said...

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Thanks for sharing!
Happy New Year!

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