Poetry / June 2012 (Issue 17)

Tokyo Winter, 1996

by Stephanie Han

To Ayako
Snug in down-filled coats of gold and pink,
we clutch sweet potatoes, bite chestnut flesh
as steam fills the night.
Stickers tucked in my wallet—our faces aqua and purple framed
crowned with animal cartoons. For this, we queued two hours
as Technicolor Harajuku filled my eyes.
In my window, the bluish glass bottle from the robotayaki.
A permanent curiosity. My son rattles
the small marble trapped in its neck.
It has moved through several countries,
nearly two decades of homes.
I can't remember what I drank,
in that noisy nook of light and sizzle,
only this—I loved the shape, the smooth glass,
the tiny sphere, a hard globe puzzle that rolled from side to side.
Your friend gallantly offered it,
a token of drunken flirtation and kindness.
Then the four of us climbed in a shiny black car,
a fast spin through the night streets—
there and then we could all feel
the raw possibility of love and surprise.
I heard your voice a few days ago—the fear and sorrow,
the hope of clinging to what we know.
Ordinary lives we share: work and husbands, sons and parents.
This is what we are. Across the oceans and years
we have confessed compromises,
laughed with regrets, wept in disappointment
and promised to meet soon. Yes, we will meet soon.
I watch and read: earthquake, tsunami, nuclear explosion.
I think of you, my friend, and how this world
collapses, of what we seek in memory,
of dreams that promise refuge
of streets that wind past to a future
we could never imagine.
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