?From Miyajimaguchi

The resolution of ease and calm and nineteen days of determined beginnings lose to the coffee roast pittering within my toes and up to my fresh distraction-seeked pomegranate polish.  The unfamiliar bar-u-pum beat would like to escort me off this double-decked ferry and send me back to sleep on a long and fastest-in-the-world train.  Watching the remaining tourists’ exaggerated runs to board, I realize the rail is chilling my hipbones through my skirt and I debate a new stance. Magnus and Aileen, carefree, lean against the bar in deep debate of the ingenuity of that’s-what-she-said jokes.  Then a noise, new or louder, and the motor shoves my shoulder, gently, urgently, reminding me of the engagements of today.  We are displaced twenty meters in one long blink of blindness, my other heightened senses noticing the cold and pulling myself away from the metal bars.  Looking backward as my body moves to the island, I notice the ferry will not rotate; I had not realized I was on the wronged side.  However, I refuse to turn my head and look to the destination –I, patient, will wait and see items as they are presented. Content to be still, to endure scrapes of chilled air with alternating beams of sun in percussion on the face, I watch our ferry create endless V’s in the water, the waves pushing out, forming the longest, fattest, liquid Christmas tree -our ferry, the star, ever topping it off.  To my right, Ai and Magnus debate criteria and necessity of skilled photography.  Then, the tourists crowd to the left and the chatter picks up, the birds flocking to feed, grasping higher and lower tones, as experience calls for, but I feel no urge to turn my head leftward, only to match my eyes onto their same crosshair.  As they coo over the famous island we approach, I remind myself that I am not like them, and do not care that they got to see the gate much sooner than I.

I will be able to appreciate it, more fully, sure, when I do turn around.

Be impressed with my patience, I am strong.


Notice my lack of concern, I am not affected.

I shield my eyes from what I know is the torii gate as I turn to take the stairs down. Across the dock, bridge, through the station, down the steps and turning rightward.  Good –I haven’t seen it.

I wasn’t the first of my peers to ever see or understand anything, I never wanted to be.  So though I am proud of all I’ve wound up to be, my choices, my difference, my unique, pas unique raison d’être, my day to day, I can’t help but think everything would have been so much easier if I had just turned around when my journey began.


? Miyajima

My boots at the steps of the temple, the socks climb to the soft wooden veranda.  I hear chanting inside, then the vital drums. I walk around to the back and place my hand on the sliding door, feeling the taiko vibrations against knitted mittens.  After moments I am called back, away from them, and sit, cross-legged, resting my head on the wooden rails.  The chanting is seeping out the cracks in wood and lulling me to a rest.  There is green in every bit of my sight, and with each breath of wind, the leaves urge me to stay.  I’ve always said happiness is a moment you want to last forever, so I guess I am happy now.

I explore the pond, the hidden, empty room under a shrine, cross a small bridge and walk around the pagoda, away from all the eyes.  After a tune, Magnus is leaning against the walls with me, listening to the beginning of the flute’s next song.  Suddenly, I feel duped –the flute music must be playing off speakers somewhere, for us all to be affected.  My shoulders slouch, the tune changing again, to something I recognize, something not Japanese, and I wonder why they’d pick such music to be played for atmospheric purposes.  We wander back across the bridge and over grass, along rows of statues with knitted caps.  “There must… look closely”, I say, and we both search the grand mountain across the water from us. “Wait- there!” I am overjoyed, and point out the man to Magnus, half hidden, on a ledge of the wooded mountain. Magnus is grinning too and perhaps he’s as pleased as I that the music was real.  Raising my hand, I jump to be more visible, and the man turns his head and fixes his eyes on us.  After a few moments, he lifts his right arm and waves back. I smile; Magnus waves in reply.  I can’t shout to him, he wouldn’t hear, so I hope my smile shows my gratitude.  The three of us look at each other for a moment then slightly bow, subconsciously, and step back, turn, and continue.


To Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Koen

Amidst nomihodai’s mosuko-myu-ru, karu-amiruku, and kashisuorenjis, Ai works a thread through her paper cranes. White, grey, pink, then red to purple, her transitions are made with half colors, executed with the same ease as the rainbow. I know we’ll be making a stop tonight.

At midnight, we pass by the old rest house, so unassuming I must point it out to Ai.  We walk to the booths that hold donated cranes, locked for the night.  Ai manages to work her hand through the clear, plastic curtain and hangs her gift.  It’s open during the day to leave donations, but she’d rather not be seen.  Reactions differ here, at the atomic bomb target: some pull together, others take on the noise alone.  I want to ring the bell in the children’s monument, but they’ve taken it away for the night, probably for the better.  Somewhere close, some sleep.  We walk around the park, mostly dark, a few low lights for passers-through, for nighttime visits, a quiet fire in the middle. I show Ai the museum where I spent yesterday, before she arrived; she’ll make her stop tomorrow.  They asked me how it affected me, Magnus and Ai.  I talked of surprise of how much responsibility was claimed by the Japanese, how scientific the first part of the museum was, how even the Nanking massacre was mentioned, which I never would have suspected.  I do not dwell on the woman whose lined kimono pattern burned onto her back, the deformed hand nails, or the torn steel, exhibited less than a foot away from my living self. Honestly, I hurried away from the steel –I felt the power that so easily sliced it was still smoldering.

We check the opening time and she begins to plan her tomorrow. We’ll have breakfast at the UCC Café in the station, before I take an hour shinkansen to Kyoto, an hour shirasagi to Fukui.  She’ll visit the museum early, maybe have time to visit the Glass Village in the afternoon before her overnight bus to Nagoya.

There is nothing of which to complain.

No, no.

There is nothing.

And so, from where we stand, at the beginning of the path, I begin running. After four seconds the chest dives and my arms shoot out to protect, my feet flying over, making a cartwheel.  My body, my healthy body, can make another, another.  The cement is moist, tears from underground making their way to surface each night, their dampness smoothing the way for my hands, my feet.

I can feel my heart touch my unmarked chest, the air touch my unburned face.  My feet stop swinging at the base of the cenotaph.  I stand there in a duty toward letters of missing people, shadows created on walls, and many, many shredded school uniforms. My heart reaches a perfect beat, keeping me here, keeping me thinking.  Today I do not want to die.

Feature Image Credit