Hokusai’s The Great Wave
in wake of Fukushima, 2011
It is said Hokusai never intended to represent
a tsunami, but an okinami, a wave of the open sea,
erect, foam curling up its claw-crested fingers
over stunned boatmen surfing in reverence.
And I wonder what made that captive wave leap
out, release the dormant creature locked in
for centuries in shades of Prussian blue,
its delicate swirls spewing muddy torrents
over Fukushima’s shores, erasing in black ink
all shapes ever drawn, engraved or breathing,
its voracious appetite growing in silence, its heart
melting blackness into the heart of nuclear reactors.
What made it erupt like a maddened volcano
famished for blood, steel teeth crushing tiles, wood,
metal, belching in a roar engulfing homes, cars,
boats, buses, men, women, children, newborn,
unborn, all swept like broken twigs and fallen leaves,
carrying seeds that will not grow for seasons to come.
The wave of the open sea now speaks in tongues,
each curve, a threat, its filigree lines and blue hues
seem steeped in lethal pigments. In the print’s empty
spaces, spirits hold their breath, dotted droplets
filled with suffocated, inaudible voices, whisper:
Remember me, I no longer have this beautiful skin.
Remember the light that came out of my eyes.
Remember my story never to be told.
Remember my smile, my hands, my dreams.
Hokusai, your okinami has lost its innocence.
This poem first appeared in Sunrise from Blue Thunder Japan Anthology, and Under Brushstrokes (by Hedy Habra, Press 53, 2015).
Hedy Habra is a poet, artist and essayist. She has authored three poetry collections, most recently, The Taste of the Earth(Press 53 2019), Winner of the Silver Nautilus Book Award, Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and Finalist for the Best Book Award. Tea in Heliopolis won the Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes was finalist for the Best Book Award and the International Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Her book of criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa, examines the visual aspects of the Peruvian Nobel Prize Winner's narrative. A fifteen-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the net, and recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Award, her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies. https://www.hedyhabra.com/
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