The Thursday Think Tank at Poetic Asides asked for poems about “Hope for Japan.”


When the ground beneath her desk rolled like
a carpet shaken of its dust, like
the rollercoaster when Yuki screamed and laughed, yet like
something unnamed and horrible.

She thought, “This is IT.
The final moment, or the beginning of many
final moments.”

Crawling out of her cubicle,
scenes never to be erased from her memory.
Ten minutes before, she and Hayashi had shared a cigarette,
and a kiss, in the stairwell.
Now, he was pinned under a desk, eyes glazed;
a picture of their trip to Kanagawa as they regarded the roses
had fluttered to the ground, settling on his chest.
Was this the last thing he saw? His last good memory?
She prayed it was so.

Then came a blur of
walking nightmare people
bottled water
pictures posted with notes
questions without answers
Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster

And of course, government downplayed the severity of radiation

She and Kenji commuted inland daily from their home in Sendai;
Father enjoyed the view of surf.
Why had Kenji taken the day off?
She knew now her brother was gone, as well as their parents,
swept from earth as waves wiped the chalkboard clean.

Alone. Safe. Not safe. Scared.
A butterfly chose her at random, gracing her
with a dizzying dance of color and life.

“If only I had the mind of an insect,” she thought,
as bile rose in her throat. “At least butterflies hold the key to hope:
Living free for a season, surrendering peacefully to death.”

Her only hope was that the world see, and learn, what her grandmother
had told her, as she revealed the flowered tattoos of her Nagasaki childhood:
Men’s greed and grandiose technology will never defeat the ferocity of nature.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil