Tin can of Sakuma hard candy, two orphans, on Kobe streets
dark illuminated by the natural lit matches of the summer field,
sound of its hollowness. Wide streets emptied of the koi
and the yukatas, and the family of dolls dressed with kimono sitting like rocks
with their powdered faces: the conflagration spreads.
Shuga, tastes the eight-grade boy, carefully swaying
his imouto-san tight in the nook of his arms. Melting gold
embraces them softly from the rose-cheeked nihon
and the hotaru, fluttering soundlessly, like a timed bomb.
Imouto-san, open your eyes, he says, the fever raging
like drones which came like that Kanagawai-oki
as hellish as the eyes of the kichiku beiei, the deafening sound
as he cupped his hands over his ears, praying for the kami
of the rubbles of his home to protect him and his imouto.
Bright slips from the nightmare are the racing fancy of reunion
upon the rabbit in the bright moon, orphans barefoot
with tattered undergarment and pantsu imports to Kobe
since the Meiji Restoration, as hunger turns kimonos into rice
and rice into scars of the crackling leather belt.
Accommodate, muttered the aunt, devouring
rice bartered with the kimono of her distant cousin.
Bushi, capsized by the torpedoes, and that refusal to abandon,
Kakun, sang the mothers slowly savoring the cherries robbed from trees
the season of its flowers stitched into the children they left behind:
As well Odachi’s Zero, the Yokaren with propellers
as chisel, carving the enemy with the ardor of life.
As well the bomb weighing it, making it impossible
to outmaneuver the fire of the enemy tempest:
each day, a mission of elegizing the still-living.
The children dance among the himiwari, before they are cut down
unaware that their pride—like that of their mother a little beyond the rivers—
will cost them dearly, the tin holds a box of matches
in shuga, offering hallucination of a better time in the feverish
confusion, surrounded by the tinkering fire.
The brother kept his imouto-san’s little ash bones
in the tin can—with her doll and what’s left of the shadow
of stealing on Kobe streets, beaten by the Western baker
too afraid to go to war—
tricksters alive when news of Nihon’s surrender breaks.
What meaning is the withdrawal from the bank account,
for food his malnourished imouto never has chance to eat?
What meaning is the ballad of Mount Narayama
as the adult at home ate the children to survive?
What meaning is shuga?
Come morn, the janitor sees yet another corpse
under the shadow of the narrow streets.
He sorts through the belongings for valuables,
finds nothing but a tin that doesn’t chime.
He throws it, the top coming loose,
imouto’s gray ash projected as kami.
That morning, what’s left of the majesty of children
held hands to board the single-track train with no return.