Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
Uncle Hiroshi came to visit one airless summer evening:
Charcoal, cigarette-stained suit; oversized, amber glasses
And greasy strands held in place over an
Ostrich egg’s head.
He was clutching a wooden kokeshi doll
Garish lips and unlidded eyes delicately painted on.
Iroke, sex appeal, of a geisha
For my chubby five-year-old hands.
She squeaks when you turn her head
he croaked, bending over me,
Gold molar glinting in a graveyard of jagged tombstones
And a fog of ashen breath.
His gyoza fingers gripped the head and forced it back and forth.
She’s mute at first, and he holds his breath with the effort
Of twisting the neck:
Wood grinding on wood.
She’s silent; face inert, fringe still
Shoulders hunched in protest.
Eventually, she makes a sound.
See, he snickers, you just have to push it harder.
In the distance, I hear the minor third of ambulance sirens,
Young cries for help in the suffocating night
It nestles in the corner of my ekiben, my bento box from the station.
Umeboshi: they let you know first when it’s time to pick them:
Hard pink nipples hammering down on the copper roof,
clogging gutters and scaring our cat Toto - both in season.
Ume, then - still unripe, unsweetened plum, packed as commuters from Ikebukuro
to Shinjuku in glass cases
(Some ladies-only to stop the fondling. Nothing fond about it.)
We place them under the slats of hand-tied tatami straw flooring
Remember that boy from school who’d ask about shibari with a smile?
In darkness, during the year, they rub up and against each other,
Leaking juices, and spreading their sweetness
- slippery when wet says the platform sign -
But who knows what happens underground?
Until it’s made its way here, dried, a sour tang to my lunchbox,
before I board the train.
Tamiko is a half-Japanese mother of two born and brought up in England. She speaks several languages. When there's no pandemic, she's hired as a wedding pianist from time to time.