"Reconciliation" Contest Winners / December 2014 (Issue 26)

Portrait in a Fujisaki Apartment

by Meg Eden Kuyatt

The mother sits—not
elevated, but on the floor,
beside laundry, cats, toys, trash—

She takes
her daughter’s head,
lowers it slowly
into her lap.

This habit is familiar:
the girl closes her eyes,
opens the small gate
of her mouth and lets
the mother brush
her infant teeth.

How long will it be
before she is required
to labour over entrance exams,
marry a salary man, bear
her children in silence?

Will she—like so many
before her—jump
in front of a train, or walk
through the suicide woods,
knowing this labor
is too much to bear?

Or will she remember
the image of her mother,
bent over, instrument in hand,
this last instance of grace
when no one expected a girl

to make herself clean?

Meg Eden KuyattThis is a Finalist of Cha's "Reconciliation" Poetry Contest. Meg Eden Kuyatt on "Portrait in a Fujisaki Apartment": I was inspired to write this poem during a homestay in Japan—it was such a small place, yet this family was kind enough to let me stay with them, and see their lives up close, the good and the bad. This was particularly incredible to me, as in Japan, it’s rare enough for friends to visit each other inside their houses, let alone host strangers. Seeing their intimate moments together, largely between the daughter and mother, made me at times feel like an intruder. But I was so moved by the vulnerability of the daughter, that she needed her mother to brush her teeth still—and I realized how I can’t even remember when my mother had to do the same for me. The things we forget that our mothers do for us, and the relationships that are severed over time. And as we get older—in any society—there is some sort of expectation for maintaining an appearance of perfection. I just think of that girl in Fujisaki and hope that as she gets older and feels that pressure, she will remember her mother, who took care of her when she was unable to do anything, and be reconciled back to her. That idea humbled me so much: realizing that my mother, too, took care of me when I was unable to take care of myself. Writing this poem was a reminder to myself as much to anyone else, to not put my identity in my performance, but to be willing to humble myself and return to those who are close to me in times of need, knowing that I can’t fix everything on my own. [Read Jason Lee's commentary on "Portrait in a Fujisaki Apartment"] [Back to "Reconciliation"]
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