One Poem. One Planet.– Hiromi Ito

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COYOTE

My grandmother was a medium
My mother was a magician
My mother’s older sister was a geisha
My mother’s younger sister had tuberculosis
My mother’s other younger sister was barren
All were wonderfully beautiful
The spells mother taught me
All required saké, rice, and salt
We were afraid of snakes, water, and the east

My daughter began speaking baby talk at two months
When the coyote speaks to her
She smiles and always responds
The coyote: A dry plain, plain, plain
My daughter: Plain, plain, plain
The coyote: No lying
My daughter: No lying, no lying, no lying
The coyote: Hungry, hungry
My daughter: Hungry too
Coyote: Hah, hah, hah
My daughter: Haaaaaaaa-ohh
My daughter’s father, my father: I wanted to concentrate just on the coyote 
I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing other than the coyote
And I wanted to trade places with him

The milk flows from my breast bountifully
To fatten my daughter it flows in overabundance, much too much
My grandmother’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened her four girls and two boys
My mother’s older sister’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened her three boys
My mother’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened just me, and the leftover milk flowed out
My mother’s younger sister’s milk also flowed bountifully
With it she fattened her two boys
My mother’s other younger sister nursed and nursed her adopted child
With her milkless breasts until eventually
The milk began to flow from her body
There is so much rain
Everything and anything gets soaked
Inside a damp frame, grandmother’s beautiful smiling face with no eyebrows or teeth
My mother’s older sister’s beautiful face with no chin, teeth, or hair but with large lips
My mother’s younger sister’s beautiful face with fleshy, hairless lashes and no teeth
My mother’s younger sister’s beautiful face with spots and no teeth
My mother’s beautiful face with sagging cheeks, crow’s feet, and no armpit hair nor teeth
But all of them do have breasts that sag

The women all enjoy fondling the babies in the family
My daughter
Is the only female grandchild
Is the only female niece

The words of the women who fondle the babies in the family
Slowly turn to baby talk before our eyes
The women from age ninety to fifty gather
(The ninety-year-old has been dead for a decade)
The women sit together and
Begin to speak in baby talk
Gyaaatei
Gyaaatei
Haaraagyaatei
Harasoogyaatei

My grandmother was a medium
My mother was a magician
My mother’s older sister was a geisha
My mother’s younger sister had tuberculosis
My mother’s other younger sister was barren
My grandfather was a paralytic
My mother’s older brother died young
My mother’s younger brother did not speak at all
My father was related to none of them
My mother’s husband and my husband
Vanished right before
I gave birth to my daughter

Coyote: Gyaatei
My daughter: Gyaatei
Coyote: Haaraagyaatei
My daughter: Haraharagyaatei
Coyote: Gyaagyaagyaatei
My daughter: Haragyaatei

The precipitation and humidity this time of year
My mother chants her magical spells
Cursing the humidity
Saké and rain
Rice and rain
Salt and rain
Ordering the water
To flow to the east
Forgive us, oh honorable snake

Saké and rain
Rice and rain
Salt and rain

 

–Hiromi Ito, (Japan) from On Territory 1

 

Learn more about One Poem. One Planet.

 

#onepoemoneplanet

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