for Mieko Kawakami
Day by day, the baby grows, which can only mean that, day by day, the mother is being lowered into the grave. Thus, she wills that her baby should remain forever the size of a hamster.
As the infant ages, the mother rejuvenates, but they resist the temptation to mate after so many years. Now, mother is a screaming newborn, and the child is a frowning parent to its own mom. Sighing, it shakes its head at that blind thrust towards procreation.
Soon as her baby is born, she knows it’s already much wiser than her. Judging her with its seasoned eyes, her baby ticks off countless physical, intellectual and moral shortcomings. I should snuff you out right now, she contemplates, before you become even more insufferable.
For many years, maybe even decades, her baby can only make nonsensical sounds. This, she interprets as infinite mercy on her baby’s part, for she lives in constant terror of what it will finally utter with its first fully-formed sentence.
One gorgeous morning, she wakes up screaming because her baby has been snatched from her, most violently, in the middle of the night, then she realizes, with an uproarious laugh, that she never even had a baby. With no husband, a virgin, she’s only a child herself. She is the baby.
[This is a response to a prose poem by Mieko. Dark and anxiety-ridden, it was written after she had a baby. My own poem, I just sent to her, but Miwako Ozawa or Motoyuki Shibata will have to translate it before Mieko can read it. In New York, Mieko said that we share a similar dark sense of humor and fragility. Soon after she laughingly joked that we were twins, Mieko started to sob, however. "We're both a mess," I said to the rest of the table.]
Postcards from the End of [the] America[n Empire]
Friday, May 6, 2016
for Mieko Kawakami
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
As published in Monkey Business 6:
When booking a hotel room, make sure it’s in the right city. If you’re going to Istanbul, for example, make sure your moonlit bed, dead television and odd angled toilet will be in Istanbul, Turkey, and not, mon chéri, Istanbul, Iowa. Of course I know there is no such place, but there will undoubtedly be one before we break up this playfully pregnant intercourse. Look on Google Maps. You may even see your dead father jogging, quite happily, in Istanbul, Iowa.
Who doesn’t know that pickpockets are becoming ever more skillful? It’s as if their fingers have gotten longer and swifter. With their sixth, seventh or eighth sense, they can tell exactly what you’ve been hiding all your life, and your degree of masochism. Of course, you must atone for your own thievery, you compulsive robber of anything that means anything.
Some pickpockets specialize in stealing your character as you’re ordering a sandwich. Recently, I lost my virginal underwear while merely standing in line at a Starbucks in the capital of… I’d rather not say. I don’t want to besmirch this noble country since I may have been complicit in the laughable brouhaha. The pleasantly ticklish sensation lingers to this day. I could easily have been strangled, though, and dumped into a ditch.
To ensure that nothing is lifted from your decaying person, keep both hands inside your pant pockets at all time. Clutch your wallet, coins and keys with a death grip. Don’t grind your teeth, however, as that would arouse dangerous suspicion from the predators. Anticipating their next meal, they will smack their lips and extend their hands in heartfelt greetings. Simply nod, if you must be cordial, but it’s best to look quickly away, then quicken your steps as you escape their Byzantine entrapment. Even when dining in a restaurant, don’t take your hands out of your pockets for even a second. All that you ever cared for will disappear forever. It is certainly worth it to master the art of eating without hands. Millions have done it.
If someone tails you block after block, mile after mile, city after city, don’t ever turn around to see who it is, for it will certainly make you weep then destroy you. I mean, you will kill yourself immediately for not having turned around much, much sooner.
[Motoyuki Shibata, Monkey Business' editor, asked for a prose poem in late December, so I wrote the above in two days while in Leipzig. Two months later, I'd lose my camera, lenses and passport in Berlin. Reading the piece in New York last week, I joked that there is perhaps a Monkey Business curse!]
On Saturday, Asia Society presented two separate panel discussions, featuring prominent Japanese and foreign literary figures, in celebration of the publication of the sixth edition of Monkey Business, a cutting edge literary journal comprised of new writing from Japan.
The first conversation featured Linh Dinh and Mieko Kawakami and is moderated by Roland Kelts, and the second discussion featured Hideo Furukawa and Rebecca Brown and is moderated by Ted Goosen. Motoyuki Shibata, a founding editor of Monkey Business, introduced the participants.
Watch the above video for a complete presentation of both panel discussions.
- Linh Dinh
- Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.