N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 0 9






My Mother

Kotodama the soul of language

There is no door.
The ceiling is too high.
She crouches at a glass box.
The sun's rays come through and she sees
the dogwood blooms just as the year before. Yet,
she feels no breeze, hears no robins.

"Now, that's a deception!"
She shoots her opinion watching the news on TV, but
the words have no place to go because
the husband is no longer there.

Her daughter climbs the ladder,
Opens the lid and asks after her.
She answers in the brightest voice.
"I am as clunky as the pitcher with the bases loaded."
Something Father would have said,
thinks her daughter.

Japanese folklore says
Words, once coming out of human mouth,
will have a soul of their own.
Husband's words come out of Wife's mouth.

In months or years,
The words will fill the glass box.
Will they flood?
Will they accumulate like snow?
Will they evaporate like the little tea
the thirsty husband could not swallow?



On Buddhism

"There is no future for Buddhism in Japan!"
Our family monk declares.
My mother slips another
bill in the envelope.




"Mama, Obento Bako"


Hop off the tram
to the Nagasaki atomic bomb museum
A convenience store by the traffic light

I promised Leslie, my daughter: we would go shopping after. She was apprehensive. Some museums we had visited in Asia gave her the impressions that they stored old things to express anger and hatred.

No flags or grand entrance, only a small sign pointed to the Hypocenter. Leslie asked if the bomb hit here where we stood. I read the information board: "No, it exploded 500m right above here."

Crossed the street to the hypocenter
Look up the blue sky
shielding eyes with our right hands

The hypocenter memorial
Polished black stone
napping cats

We climbed the steps and found the entrance to the museum a flat structure with a large glass ceiling a circular version of the entrance to Louvre. Inside, bright under the early afternoon sun, it looked like a hospital due to open in a few days. There were two ladies sitting at the table who bowed toward us. The sign read, "Volunteer Guide Available." We decide to go on our own.

Snail slope down to
The exhibit room.
Paper cranes drape the white wall

A gong sounded in my head when I saw the first exhibit: The melted cast iron spiral staircase. The bent steel wire stuck out of broken concrete blocks. A shadow of a person left on the remaining piece of a wall.

Leslie's father is American
Her mother Japanese
She stands askew before the headless statue

Leslie whispered, "Mama, Obento Bako" a lunch box
The burnt sooty aluminum lunch box belonged to
Satoko, a fourteen year old.
Blackened rice now lies like old lava.
Was there a salted plum on it?
Did she like pickled radish with it?
She was waiting
for the siren at noon
to open the lid
to hold the chopsticks
to taste sweet rice
to wash it off with a bit of hot water from the big kettle
and to drink starchy water from
the round corner of the lunch box so that
her mother or grandmother will not
scold her for wasting even a grain of rice
until a moment before
11:02 am, August 9, 1945

Leaving Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum,

there was a lot on our minds but we didn't want to talk about it. We didn't want to talk about anything else, either.
There was one more memorial next to the Museum. The Peace Memorial Hall. I am glad we didn't skip it although we were tempted. It was modern - not unlike the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. Wood. Metal. Rock. A Requiem. For the first time, I felt I knew what it was like to pray