Nagoya Writes

February 14, 2008

How Do You Like Japan? by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

Filed under: Issue: 2004,Joritz-Nakagawa,Poetry — usbengoshi @ 6:10 pm

for Keiko Matsui Gibson and Tamah Nakamura

Where are you from?
How long have you been in Japan?
What language do you speak at home?
Which do you like better, Japan or America
You speak Japanese very well!
How do you like Japan?

I love it, I hate it, it is killing me, i can never leave it

These questions there is no answer for.
I answer like a trained bird
Each country has its good points
I love Japan
I want to go home
I will die here
I may die here tomorrow
I don’t fit in here
I don’t fit in America anymore, if i ever did.
How do i like japan?
it is not what i expected
on the long train to Nagasaki
my eyes well up i hide them
where are you from?
i’m from canada
today anyway
i sob loudly in the atom bomb museum
(foreigners have big voices, are tall, and have swimming pools)
junior high school boys dressed for a funeral or a war watch me
what are they thinking?
don’t they want to ask me where i am from?
i am from america the evil empire
i am from america
please ask me where i am from!

i grew up in the racist suburbs of chicago
white people hated gays mexicans and blacks
i hated white people
i hated hate
hating hate is a form of hate
so i made peace (sort of)
i escaped to the city proper when i was 17
and moved to a gay neighborhood
and lived in a black neighborhood and a mexican one
and dated a bisexual a black a mexican and a white guy
who i left when his wife became pregnant
i lived with a paranoid schizophrenic
he anglo-cized his name
in case the nazis ever again came to power
and shot handguns on thursdays
our house burned down
i drank too much
i fell down in the street an illiterate jazz musician
picked me up and dragged me home
like a boy who found a sled
i traded in my suburban lsd and marijuana
for urban cocaine
left catholic university and went to art school
and dealt drugs
one of my customers entered a mental hospital
i forget his name

how do i like japan?
the food is too soft
my neck hurts from bowing too much
squash should not be seasoned with fish broth and sugar!
why are you a vegetarian?
are you christian?
why did you come to japan?
what was your job in the usa?

i graduated from art school
i entered grad school
to kick my cocaine addiction
before that i was almost raped and killed
after that i couldn’t have sex for a long time
america is a dangerous country!!

a land of contradictions
nothing like japan
and just like japan

how do you like japan?
do you miss america?
i miss my bony father
i have one friend i miss very much
of him i cannot speak
my real self is hidden
like a bar hostess in daylight
trying to please you
but there is a law preventing this

i want to escape
to die here
to never leave
to go home
where is your home?
do you know where your home is?

my parents wait for me to return
sometimes they receive presents in the mail and a fone call
they have stopped waiting
i have stopped waiting
this life is just like

and nothing like yours

my father in law fought for the japanese army
my father fought in germany
they are both 79 years old, born in the same month
they were both engineers
and are the quiet type of men
you find in the movies
they have experienced poverty and don’t talk about it
my father in law is old, my father is young
my father in law does nothing all day long my father busy all day long
i live in the empty air between them
i work hard and do nothing on alternate days (i honor all my relatives
this way)
identical and nothing alike
my japanese mother gets up early and makes breakfast
my mother does not get up does not make breakfast
she makes sweets she seldom eats
after a breakfast of coffee and cigarettes
here eat something this is our local delicacy from my hometown
where am i from?
a product of japanese efficiency and american swagger
living in the cracks between
welcome to japan

how do you like amerika

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