Iyasu

August 2021, Poetry Festival SG

When the tsunami came, it went 

with street-lamps, two-storey minka

wads of yen stowed away in bedrolls, 

seven-year Mazdas in need of washing 

and that sebun-irebun down on Route Six 

I used to buy matcha kit-kats from when 

I was five. Obāchan was in the kitchen 

making mochi and pickled rice balls 

when the forty-metre waves came for her, 

and went, winding up mountain paths 

to Suwa and Kobine before receding 

like prayers unanswered. Today, her eyes 

stare out to sea as though she’s somewhere out there, 

like the man who twice bowed and clapped 

his hands before leaping in as an offering 

to Namazu, the Earthshaker. Shinchi, the 

survivors called their new earth, layers of 

raw memory steeped away like the pink, 

salt-stung hide of a newborn’s, their bare 

feet bathed in the still waters that came, 

and went, and made way for the healing 

yet to come.