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Friday, May 6, 2016

Baby

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.]



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1 comment:

LJansen said...

"We're both a mess." We are a mass of mess.

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About Me

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.