Poetry Centered

Sawako Nakayasu: Grief Textures

January 31, 2024 University of Arizona Poetry Center Episode 39
Poetry Centered
Sawako Nakayasu: Grief Textures
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Sawako Nakayasu selects poems that confront griefs personal and national, told directly and obliquely. She introduces Timothy Liu documenting the atrocities of Japanese imperialism (“A Requiem for the Homeless Spirits”), Daniel Borzutzky’s translation of Raul Zurita witnessing to the brutal crimes of the Chilean dictatorship (“Song for His Disappeared Love”), and Keith Waldrop conjuring a grief-riddled dream landscape (“An Apparatus”). Nakayasu closes with her own “Ant in a silvery tide,” a poem linked to a time of personal grief.

Find the full recordings of Liu, Borzutzky, and Waldrop reading for the Poetry Center on Voca:
Timothy Liu (February 20, 2014)
Daniel Borzutzky (January 10, 2019)
Keith Waldrop (with Rosmarie Waldrop, March 5, 2011)

You can also enjoy three recordings of Nakayasu reading for the Poetry Center in 2007, 2018, and 2023.

[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:00:02.72] JULIE SWARSTAD JOHNSON: Thank you for joining us for Poetry Centered, where you'll hear archival recordings of poets reading from their work selected and introduced to you by a contemporary poet. This podcast comes from the University of Arizona Poetry Center and from Voca our online audiovisual archive. I'm Julie Swarstad Johnson, the Poetry Center's archivist. We're starting 2024 with an episode hosted by poet and translator Sawako Nakayasu. Her most recent books are Some Girls Walk into The Country They Are From and Pink Waves. In November, she read at the Poetry Center as part of the American Literary Translators Association annual conference, and she shared a really wonderful selection of work in that reading. You can find a recording on Voca, and we'll make sure to have that link in the show notes. It's a great listen. 

[00:00:56.12] In today's episode, Sawako shares poems that consider griefs of many varieties-- personal and societal. You'll hear poems by Timothy Liu and Keith Waldrop and a translation of Raul Zurita by Daniel Borzutzky. Sawako closes with a poem of her own that came at a time of grief. Sawako, thank you so much for taking on this topic and for being with us today. 

[00:01:22.35] SAWAKO NAKAYASU: Greetings. My name is Sawako Nakayasu, and I'm recording this in Boston, Massachusetts on the ancestral lands of the Pawtucket and Massachusett people. For the last year or two, I've been thinking about death. Not long ago, I talked about death with Victoria Chang in the crowded aisles of the book fair at AWP. She named the portal I had passed through-- not the actual portal of death, but that for some of us, we move through life in such a way that you go from not thinking much about death at all to thinking about death all the time. That portal, on the other side of which, is the impending or real death of those near and dear. 

[00:02:09.48] In US American culture, death is not a comfortable topic of conversation. In Japan, where I am from, Japanese imperialism is not a comfortable topic of conversation. In my selection today, I'm feeling my way through various kinds of grief on vastly different scales and textures. The first poem I'm sharing with you is from Timothy Liu's recording on February 20, 2014. He opens with a poem called A Requiem for the Homeless Spirits, which describes details from the atrocity that was the Nanjing Massacre-- one of the most horrifying acts of the Japanese empire. 

[00:02:55.38] The Japanese government prefers to share its victim narrative-- two atomic bombs, the forced internment of Japanese-Americans, no small potatoes. But I'm concerned about the ongoing refusal to acknowledge the truth of its history, the whole truth. As recently as 2015, then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent Japanese diplomats to try to convince editors at McGraw Hill to delete or amend language regarding women forced into sexual slavery during its military occupation of Asian countries in World War II. It hurts to listen to this poem by Timothy Liu. He repeats numbers, counting the score, if you will, as two Japanese lieutenants hold a contest-- who can kill 100 people with their swords first? 

[00:03:49.29] In Liu's poem, it starts to feel abstracted, as if it was some video game. In reality, we do not have an accurate count. In reality, the enormity of each death is blurred by the sheer numerousness of massacre. Liu punctuates his reading by striking a Tibetan bowl. It brings light into a narrative of tremendous darkness. The lingering resonance gives us some room to breathe because sometimes it's hard to find a way to carry this and carry on. Here is Timothy Liu reading "A Requiem for the Homeless Spirits" on February 20, 2014. 

[00:04:36.96] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:04:39.27] TIMOTHY LIU: I'm going to read a couple of things first from a book that's coming out this fall called Don't Go Back to Sleep. In 2007, I had a cat of 14 years who died. And after she died, I didn't read and write for five months. And I also didn't listen to any music because those activities just felt too intense. And we all mourn in our own weird particular ways, but when I started to write again, I didn't write poetry. And in fact, I wrote a novel. And during that time, I only worked on one poem for two years. And I'm going to start tonight with that poem. 

[00:05:30.15] My mother, she died in 1998 of pancreatic cancer. She was also a paranoid schizophrenic. And even though it was really sad time, I was really relieved that she died. Because her life was such a torture to me, especially, and to many people. So it was a very mixed thing, but it was the only time in my life where I didn't listen to music for six months. And that was the one thing that we shared, was classical music. And so when my cat died, I was surprised that I had a similar reaction. So that's a very weird thing to realize, that the person who brought me into this world and this cat had a similar value. And I didn't know what that made of me. 

[00:06:18.13] And so I did start becoming curious about who this woman was separate from her role as a mother. And so, this is a long poem. So it's called "A Requiem for the Homeless Spirits." 

[00:06:37.18] "There is no language to adequately describe the Japanese crimes," Ma Xiuyi, survivor. 


[00:06:57.10] Head of a Chinese soldier, with a cigarette butt in its mouth, 

[00:07:02.41] Taken by whom, given by whom, 

[00:07:06.49] Who never got to see the image he'd become in the papers, in textbooks, online. 

[00:07:14.38] An image that has outlasted whatever grave he did or did not get to have in this life. 

[00:07:23.68] This is not how anyone would want to be remembered, 

[00:07:27.61] Future generations thumbing through the pages, the files, 

[00:07:32.26] Printing them out on desktop printers, 

[00:07:35.62] Printing off the same screens they use to check email, surf porn. 

[00:07:43.12] The winner of this contest will get his photo on the front page of the paper, 

[00:07:48.61] The heads of Chinese men taken off with one stroke of a broad sword, 

[00:07:54.32] Left nameless as a pile of rocks. 

[00:07:57.53] Nameless as a headless corpse with hands bound behind its back, 

[00:08:03.23] Only the names of the winners on the front page of the Nichi Nichi Shimbun on December 13, 1937. 

[00:08:14.06] In a language I cannot read, garlanding the photo of the smiling winners in uniform, 

[00:08:20.72] Each propped up on his own sword, 

[00:08:24.80] An image someone else who knows the language will have to explain to me. 

[00:08:31.76] And my hairstylist, Akira, reads to me, 

[00:08:35.75] Contest to kill first 100 Chinese with sword extended when both fighters exceed mark. 

[00:08:44.84] Mukai scores 106, and Noda, 105. 


[00:09:02.26] Soon, sleep will be taken away, appetite taken away, 

[00:09:08.41] As that which clutches Akira's throat starts to spread, 

[00:09:13.33] A cloud that began from just two cigarettes a day, 

[00:09:17.47] No insurance for the $800 price tag attached to each procedure, which may or may not save his life. 

[00:09:26.26] He who has already lost half of his voice refusing radiation for fear of losing what remains, 

[00:09:34.63] Still recognizable as he takes an electric razor to my scalp, 

[00:09:39.73] Sculpting something that will last four weeks at best, 

[00:09:44.35] He who's been doing this for more than half his life, 

[00:09:47.92] Who tells me he can still eat, still sleep eight hours a night while handing me a card for the next visit, 

[00:09:57.19] A date that suddenly seems further away than ever. 


[00:10:10.19] In a speech made in Nanjing, 

[00:10:12.44] Seven years after the rape of Nanjing, 

[00:10:16.25] Emperor, Hirohito's youngest brother, Prince Mikasa, 

[00:10:21.68] Detailed the extent of the military atrocities against the Chinese. 

[00:10:27.11] Copies of his statement suppressed, 

[00:10:30.98] Buried by the military authorities, 

[00:10:34.61] A single copy exhumed five decades later in the parliamentary library by a Kobe University professor, 

[00:10:44.30] Order number 119, Western Front battle operations, 16th division, 20th regiment, first battalion, November 16, 1937. 

[00:10:58.67] All provisions to be levied locally in Nanjing, i.e., rape, loot, pillage, destroy. 

[00:11:10.82] And what do American textbooks say about first nation genocide beyond all those blankets laced with smallpox? 

[00:11:19.64] And what will American textbooks say about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, waterboarding, 

[00:11:26.72] And extraordinary rendition 50 years from now, 

[00:11:31.25] When history as we all know, is written by the winners. 


[00:11:45.71] This is not how anyone would want to be remembered. 

[00:11:49.18] Reverend John G Magee, chairman of the International Red Cross Council, 

[00:11:54.91] Racing through gunfire to rescue disarmed Chinese soldiers being led off to the slaughter. 

[00:12:02.32] Reverend John G Magee, an amateur photographer who obtained a permit from the Japanese authorities, 

[00:12:10.82] The stills from his 16 millimeter movie camera largely responsible for what we're able now to see, 

[00:12:19.48] His camera and film deposited at Yale, 

[00:12:23.00] Where he became a chaplain after the war. 

[00:12:27.37] Photos exist. 

[00:12:29.74] Some were rounded up with barbed wire in groups of 10, 

[00:12:33.25] And herded down by the river, where the machine guns were waiting. 

[00:12:37.78] And some were forced to dig ditches, 

[00:12:40.15] Forced again to lie down in them while the next group shoveled dirt on top of them, muffling their sounds. 

[00:12:48.23] Others buried up to their necks, only to be beheaded, bayoneted, 

[00:12:54.20] Flattened by the treads of a tank. 

[00:12:57.54] Some were burned alive, 

[00:12:59.39] Gasoline igniting communal pits. 

[00:13:03.47] Photos exist. 

[00:13:05.39] Bayonet wounds on the back of a woman's neck, 

[00:13:09.05] Severing muscles down to the vertebrae column. 

[00:13:12.86] Some 80,000 women raped, 

[00:13:15.83] Ages 8 through 80, 

[00:13:18.14] Some of them stripped with their legs tied to a chair, 

[00:13:22.04] Some passing out, 

[00:13:24.17] Others bleeding to death, 

[00:13:26.12] Still others gang raped week after week, 

[00:13:29.60] Until they contracted venereal diseases and were taken out to be shot. 

[00:13:35.84] Objects inserted into the vagina of corpses before they were posed for photographs, 

[00:13:42.53] The souvenir film sent by Japanese soldiers to be developed in Shanghai, 

[00:13:48.64] Where extra prints were sometimes smuggled out to news agencies across the ocean. 


[00:14:04.37] Memo to the 66th Regiment, First Battalion, December 13, 1937, 

[00:14:12.23] Kill all captives. 

[00:14:16.52] Few of the survivors in 2014 remain alive. 

[00:14:21.29] Few of the perpetrators in 2014 remain alive. 

[00:14:26.61] Some of their stories have been recorded, 

[00:14:29.33] Many of their stories will never get told. 

[00:14:33.74] What should any of us do while they are still alive? 


[00:14:45.67] Akira says textbook revisions exist. 

[00:14:50.38] Japan's aggression against Northern China replaced with Japan's advance into northern China, 

[00:14:59.20] Japan's invasion of Southeast Asia replaced with Japan's advance into Southeast Asia, 

[00:15:08.47] Please discuss. 


[00:15:19.17] Mukai scores 106, and Noda, 105. 

[00:15:24.09] The newspaper article, 

[00:15:26.31] A fabrication, a complete fiction, 

[00:15:29.73] Mukai's attorney said before the war crimes tribunal, 

[00:15:34.02] Propaganda that made for enticing story for the two instantly famous lieutenants seeking out new brides. 

[00:15:43.62] And when the Japanese police showed up at Mukai's door in the spring of 1947, Mukai said, I did nothing wrong, 

[00:15:53.73] Telling his wife that the killing contest was all made up. 

[00:15:59.22] Oh, then, you lied to me, his wife reportedly said. 


[00:16:14.40] Baskets of gold, baskets of jade, 

[00:16:18.33] How can we trust the testimony of survivors not to be exaggerated? 

[00:16:24.48] Baskets of gold, baskets of jade, 

[00:16:28.02] All of it left behind, my mother said, 

[00:16:31.02] When the Japanese marched toward the gates of Nanjing. 

[00:16:35.13] My mother, born in 1936, according to the lunar calendar, she said, 

[00:16:41.31] Never quite sure which date to officially use on her California driver's license. 

[00:16:47.04] My mother's family, who went from everything to nothing, 

[00:16:51.78] Baskets of gold, baskets of jade, 

[00:16:54.90] Hauled off by the soldiers overnight. 

[00:16:58.89] But something's not quite right, my father says, 

[00:17:02.31] About the time and the place. 

[00:17:04.74] She was born in Xi'an, not Nanjing. 

[00:17:08.67] She wasn't even there when the soldiers scaled the walls after dropping ordnance, 

[00:17:14.14] Sun up to sun down for weeks on end. 

[00:17:17.77] Something must be wrong with her medication. 

[00:17:22.63] Though it's true, my father says, 

[00:17:24.61] Her family ran from the Japs, 

[00:17:26.50] We all did, just not in 1937. 

[00:17:30.46] You know how she gets everything confused, 

[00:17:34.03] Baskets of jade, baskets of gold, 

[00:17:37.51] My mother, in and out of psych wards for the last decades of her life, 

[00:17:43.03] Dead at the age of 62, 

[00:17:45.64] Half a globe and more than half a century away, 

[00:17:49.48] No way to verify exactly what she meant when she pulled a long, gold hair from her own scalp and said, 

[00:17:57.79] You know, you must be at least an 1/8 German, 

[00:18:02.68] But your father, so many things he still doesn't know. 


[00:18:17.29] Canceling class, I stay home from school, 

[00:18:21.01] Order three DVDs off Amazon and surf the web all day for atrocities, 

[00:18:28.46] Bullet, horse urine injected into human kidneys, 

[00:18:33.64] Bullet, animal blood injected into veins, 

[00:18:38.23] Bullet, seawater injected into veins, 

[00:18:42.76] Bullet, air injected into veins, 

[00:18:47.50] Bullet, bubonic plague injected into veins, 

[00:18:52.63] Bullet, limbs amputated, 

[00:18:56.08] Then reattached to opposite sides of the body, 

[00:19:00.28] Bullet, flamethrower practice, 

[00:19:03.85] Bullet, vivisection without anesthesia, 

[00:19:08.38] Bullet, limbs frozen off till only a torso and head remained, 

[00:19:14.33] Still breathing, eyes open. 


[00:19:27.26] When my brother brought his girlfriend home for the first time, he thought her being Asian and a member of the college speech team would be enough. 

[00:19:38.67] But when my parents heard her last name had a few syllables too many, 

[00:19:43.82] Horiuchi Yamaguchi, whatever it was, 

[00:19:48.35] What could they do but frown and whisper to one another, 

[00:19:53.33] She's Japanese, so vicious, 

[00:19:58.04] My family, no longer knowing which country each of us were living in. 


[00:20:11.45] Canceling class, I stay home from school, 

[00:20:14.87] Trying to square the accounts of just how many were massacred, 

[00:20:19.94] 300,000? 200,000? 50,000? 50? 


[00:20:35.33] Very little remains of the first grade, 

[00:20:40.22] Only Sherry on a jungle gym at recess, chanting, 

[00:20:44.03] (SINGING) milamated monkey beat, roasty toasty parakeet, 

[00:20:49.16] Wormy vomit flowing down the avenue, 

[00:20:53.15] And now it's time for lunch. 

[00:20:56.06] I forgot my spoon. 

[00:20:58.75] (SPEAKING) That and one other, 

[00:21:02.33] Chinese, Japanese, Hercules, look at these. 

[00:21:09.17] As Sherry rocked back and forth, 

[00:21:12.08] Bodacious knees churning inside an oversized T, 

[00:21:17.30] Never asked her why she pulled the outer corner of her eyes up for Chinese and down for Japanese, 

[00:21:26.24] Quite sure now even she didn't know how such pieces of rote performance art were handed down at recess. 

[00:21:34.56] The source of their origins, unknown, at least to us in 1971. 


[00:21:51.05] And before they knew it, they found themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of, 

[00:21:58.37] Bayoneted survivors who felt they had no choice but to bring their trophies home, 

[00:22:05.03] Japanese heads impaled on long bamboo poles. 


[00:22:20.67] Little else remains for my sophomore year in college, 

[00:22:24.75] But a course in abnormal psych. 

[00:22:27.87] And little remains of that except for a lecture the professor gave about a serial killer, 

[00:22:35.28] Who used to roam the Timpanogos mountains on the very trails we were likely to hike as soon as school got out. 

[00:22:44.52] Said the thing the killer liked to do most after binding his victims wrists and ankles with duct tape was to turn on a portable cassette recorder, 

[00:22:57.69] While he chose one of many possible blades from a Swiss army knife his mother had given him, 

[00:23:05.85] Curious how the wounds he inflicted would each produce a different sound as the blade went in, then out. 

[00:23:15.90] He who'd make an archive of his research, 

[00:23:19.62] Documenting the difference between puncturing a kidney versus a liver, 

[00:23:25.93] An eyelid instead of a spleen, 

[00:23:29.16] And the relish our professor took imitating some of the screams he'd heard, 

[00:23:36.09] Began to trump the facts themselves. 

[00:23:40.02] Our professor, who had become the very thing he knew so much about, 

[00:23:45.46] And in so doing, made the lesson all the more memorable, indelible. 


[00:24:04.09] Inscription on the tombstone of the homeless spirits. 

[00:24:10.30] In October of 1938, I, Gao Guanwu, was instructed by the government to go to Nanjing. 

[00:24:20.47] It was a year after the Nanjing incident. 

[00:24:24.49] Remains, however, still could be found on the mountains at the city walls, in the thick growth of grass and along the rivers. 

[00:24:33.82] I myself collected 2,600 remains in the city and buried them. 

[00:24:40.18] Two months later, the villagers related to me that there were more abandoned remains at Mao-shan, Moquan, Mah-ann, and Linggu Monastery. 

[00:24:52.63] The villagers pleaded for burial of those remains. 

[00:24:57.04] Therefore, I conveyed this matter to the public Health Bureau. 

[00:25:02.60] As a result, more than 3,000 bodies were collected and buried at the Linggu Monastery. 

[00:25:10.34] This monument was erected to guard against wild beasts and to memorialize those homeless spirits. 

[00:25:22.27] This text is from a rubbing, 

[00:25:24.61] The stone is now lost. 


[00:25:37.65] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:25:44.97] SAWAKO NAKAYASU: My next selection is a recording of Daniel Borzutzky reading on January 10, 2019. He reads an excerpt of his translation of Raul Zurita's "Song for His Disappeared Love," a devastating tremendous work of poetry, speaking through and against the Chilean dictatorship. Once again, absolute horrific atrocity. It's a haunting incantation, and yet, the way the song of love threads a path through all this horror is so moving to me. Perhaps now, even more than when I first read the work in 2010. I highly recommend the entire reading, too, as Daniel's own brilliantly sharp edged poems are written in a similar spirit of talking back, through and against the atrocities of our own time and place. Here is Daniel Borzutzky Reading an excerpt of his translation of Raul Zurita's "Song for His Disappeared Love" on January 10, 2019. 

[00:26:54.17] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:26:58.28] DANIEL BORZUTZKY: To the brothers and sisters, 

[00:26:59.57] To the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, 

[00:27:01.40] To the Association of Family Members of the Disappeared, 

[00:27:04.61] To all of us, we are tortured, 

[00:27:06.83] Pigeons of love, 

[00:27:08.39] Chilean countries and murderers. 

[00:27:12.17] I sang, sang of love, 

[00:27:15.12] With my face soaked, I sang of love, and the boys made me smile. 

[00:27:18.57] I sang louder with passion and dreams, and tears, 

[00:27:21.66] I sang the song of the old concrete sheds. 

[00:27:24.36] It was filled with hundreds of niches, 1 over the other. 

[00:27:27.46] There was a country in each one. 

[00:27:29.28] They're like boys. They're dead. 

[00:27:31.35] Black countries, African and South American countries, 

[00:27:35.31] They all lie there. 

[00:27:36.45] With love, I sing pain to the countries. 

[00:27:38.88] Thousands of crosses spread across the field, 

[00:27:41.91] His beloved sings with her entire being. 

[00:27:44.31] She sings love. 

[00:27:46.55] Was the torture, the blows that broke us into pieces. 

[00:27:49.78] I was able to hear you, but the light was fading. 

[00:27:52.33] I looked for you amid the ruins. 

[00:27:54.07] I spoke to you, 

[00:27:55.15] Your remains looked at me, and I embraced you, 

[00:27:57.31] Everything ends. Nothing remains, but dead. 

[00:28:00.25] I love you, and we love each other even though no one understands this. 

[00:28:04.72] Yes. Yes. 

[00:28:06.67] Thousands of crosses filled the field. 

[00:28:09.04] I arrived from far away with tons of beer and me and the urge to piss. 

[00:28:13.06] That's how I arrived at the concrete sheds. 

[00:28:15.37] From close up, they were vaulted barracks with broken windows, 

[00:28:18.49] And they stunk like piss, semen, blood, and snot. 

[00:28:22.66] I saw mangled people, 

[00:28:24.10] Men pecked with small pox and thousands of crosses in the refrigerator. 

[00:28:28.72] Oh, yes. Oh, yes. 

[00:28:30.43] I moved my legs and called all those putrid dudes. 

[00:28:33.55] Everything had been erased except those two damned sheds. 

[00:28:36.55] A wicked prince tried to grab me from the waist, but I called up his number, put it on the grass, and fled. 

[00:28:41.53] Then they blindfolded me. 

[00:28:43.06] I saw the Virgin. 

[00:28:44.05] I saw Jesus. 

[00:28:44.89] I saw my mother skinning me with blows. 

[00:28:47.24] I looked for you in the darkness, but the little beauties could see nothing beneath the bandage on your eyes. 

[00:28:52.82] I saw the Virgin. 

[00:28:53.81] I saw Satan and Mr K. 

[00:28:55.64] Everything was dry in front of the concrete niches. 

[00:28:58.37] The Lieutenant said, let's go. 

[00:29:00.41] But I searched and cried for my boy. 

[00:29:02.99] Oh, love. 

[00:29:04.13] Damn it, said the lieutenant. 

[00:29:05.75] We're going to bleed a bit. 

[00:29:07.19] My girl died. 

[00:29:08.42] My boy died. 

[00:29:09.50] They all disappeared. 

[00:29:10.94] Deserts of love. 

[00:29:14.06] A love, broken we fell, 

[00:29:15.56] and the fall, I cried looking for you. 

[00:29:17.48] Blow after blow, but the last ones were not needed. 

[00:29:20.57] We dragged ourselves a bit between the fallen bodies to stay together, 

[00:29:24.20] One next to the other. 

[00:29:25.52] It's not tough, 

[00:29:26.45] Not the solitude. 

[00:29:27.53] Nothing has happened, and my sleep rises and falls as usual, 

[00:29:30.86] Like the days, like the night. 

[00:29:32.81] All my love is here, and it has stayed, 

[00:29:35.30] Stuck to the rocks, to the sea, and the mountains. 

[00:29:38.48] Stuck. Stuck to the rocks, the sea, and the mountains. 

[00:29:42.20] And those lines are carved into the museum, The Memorial to The Disappeared in Santiago. 

[00:29:50.69] All my love is here, and it has stayed, 

[00:29:52.13] Stuck to the rocks and mountains. 

[00:29:53.63] And when Raul reads, he has a very powerful voice. So he goes, [SPEAKING SPANISH] 

[00:30:03.44] So you can picture that. I'm not going to do that throughout. 

[00:30:08.64] I traveled to many places. 

[00:30:10.32] My friends were sobbing in the old concrete sheds. 

[00:30:13.20] The boys howled, let's go. 

[00:30:15.43] We're at the place they told us about. 

[00:30:17.22] I screamed to my beautiful boy. 

[00:30:18.96] My face dripped, and the gentlemen joined me. 

[00:30:21.36] But I found no one to say good morning to, 

[00:30:23.97] Just some witch men with mousers who ordered a good bloodbath for me. 

[00:30:27.66] You're crazy, I told them. 

[00:30:29.25] Don't believe it, they say. 

[00:30:30.96] All that could be seen were the crosses in the old sheds covered in something. 

[00:30:34.62] They clipped off my shoulder with a bayonet blow, when I felt my arm as I fell to the grass. 

[00:30:39.07] Then they hit my friends with it. 

[00:30:40.53] They went on and on, but when they beat my parents, I ran to the toilet to vomit. 

[00:30:44.76] Vast prairies formed in each bit of vomit, 

[00:30:47.22] The clouds breaking the sky, and the hills getting closer. 

[00:30:50.34] What's your name and what do you do, they asked me? 

[00:30:52.93] Look, you have a nice ass. 

[00:30:53.94] What's your name, nice ass, little bastard bitch, they asked me. 

[00:30:56.85] But my love was stuck to the rocks, the sea, and the mountains. 

[00:30:59.88] But my love, I tell you, is caught on the rocks and the sea and in the mountains. 

[00:31:03.90] They don't know the damn concrete sheds they are. 

[00:31:07.39] I come with my sobbing friends. 

[00:31:09.19] I come from many places. 

[00:31:10.63] I come crying, I smoke, and I get the boys really hot. 

[00:31:13.48] It's good for seeing colors, 

[00:31:14.98] But they are digging us up by the doors. 

[00:31:16.96] But everything will be new, I tell you. 

[00:31:19.33] Oh, yes. Beautiful boy. 

[00:31:21.10] Of course, said the guard. 

[00:31:22.72] We have to yank out the cancer by its roots. 

[00:31:25.54] Oh, yes. Oh. yes. 

[00:31:27.28] My disembodied shoulder bled, and the strange smell was the blood, 

[00:31:30.67] Turning round, you see the two enormous sheds, 

[00:31:33.13] Traces of TNT, guards, and thick barbed wire fences cover the broken windows. 

[00:31:38.87] But they never found us because our love was stuck to the rocks, the sea, and the mountains, 

[00:31:43.60] Stuck. Stuck to the rocks, the sea, and the mountains. 

[00:31:47.02] Stuck. Stuck to the rocks, the sea, and the mountains. 

[00:31:50.80] My girl died. 

[00:31:52.03] My boy died. 

[00:31:53.08] Everyone disappeared. 

[00:31:54.88] Deserts of love. 

[00:31:59.19] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:32:06.69] SAWAKO NAKAYASU: Finally, I arrive at my desire to honor the late Keith Waldrop, who has been such a huge influence on my life as a poet and artist. The reading is a recording of his March 5, 2011 reading together with Rosemary Waldrop, where he reads some poems from his trilogy titled Transcendental Studies. "An Apparatus" is the title of the first poem in the second book of the trilogy, titled Falling in Love Through a Description. 

[00:32:42.12] Many people don't know too much about Keith's accomplishments or antics as a dramatist, but you definitely feel an ancient dramatic majesty in his voice. He says these poems were written by collage, and the poem holds the drama in its aesthetics of collage, moving sometimes from a simple narration of perception, like watching a sunbeam refracted on a frozen lake, for example, all the way to a scene of biblical scales, where quote, "the land quakes, the ocean swells, and a myriad years old forest snaps and cracks," end quote. 

[00:33:26.35] The poem is full of his subtle humor, wry tenderness, and charm in the face of ominous danger. Here is Keith Waldrop reading "An Apparatus" on March 5, 2011. 

[00:33:44.31] KEITH WALDROP: From where I sit, I can see other things, 

[00:33:50.03] A silver porcupine, 

[00:33:51.56] Pins standing upright. 

[00:33:54.02] It is a vanished tale of a vanished forest at the shore of a vanished ocean. 

[00:34:02.30] I call the dead as often as I can in the vaults among mummies. 

[00:34:08.60] This is pure memorial. 

[00:34:12.46] I am the girl in whose eyes the name is written. 

[00:34:18.95] I feel as if veiled, 

[00:34:21.72] As if soon I shall get to know something. 

[00:34:26.78] There are people with encephalitis who cannot go forward, 

[00:34:31.64] But can go backward and can dance. 

[00:34:36.25] In this rough draft of my memoirs, my brother comes toward me, 

[00:34:43.39] Frightened, skeletal, longing for marvels. 

[00:34:48.69] I cannot describe it better than by comparing it to other figures, 

[00:34:54.76] Intoxication, mere reflexes as, for instance, breathing can become conscious. 

[00:35:06.32] One of two rivals has his ornamental tail bit off, 

[00:35:10.40] In dying sounds barely reaching our ears, 

[00:35:15.08] A melody continues. 

[00:35:20.16] No end to it, 

[00:35:21.81] An infinite progression, 

[00:35:24.12] All this love of a bygone age. 

[00:35:29.22] Watch the track of a concentrated sunbeam through our lake ice. 

[00:35:36.51] Part of the beam is stopped, 

[00:35:39.88] Part goes through. 

[00:35:42.88] Now the upper surface buckles, 

[00:35:45.40] Phantasmagoria of unchained passion under which the land quakes, 

[00:35:50.68] The ocean swells, and a myriad years old forest snaps and cracks, 

[00:35:57.43] Surpassing all forms of experience, 

[00:36:01.39] The wide deep freshwater lake on which the city is built, 

[00:36:09.98] Rises before us, 

[00:36:12.55] Here, a modern idea interposes, 

[00:36:16.63] A new body made from the elements. 

[00:36:21.75] Then, everything is forgotten. 

[00:36:27.13] Sometimes thoughts are cut off, 

[00:36:29.47] And sometimes they are the blade, which cuts at the present gravel pit, 

[00:36:36.74] Electric lights in the evening cast their magic blue sheen. 

[00:36:43.07] There's the sun, 

[00:36:44.69] A crack above those hills breaking the day, 

[00:36:48.02] If the door open, who comes in? 

[00:36:52.49] If it close, what will interrupt? 

[00:36:56.23] My train, 

[00:36:59.16] The staircase effect supplies strong evidence for a subjective map. 

[00:37:05.43] Downhill, the sun trickles unperturbed. 

[00:37:11.27] Here, trots a mammoth with red wool through the black yew forest. 

[00:37:17.60] The tendency of elements to linger on, 

[00:37:23.10] You say, I dream of what I want, but what I want now is to dream. 

[00:37:31.00] The cold rind broken, the same wind blows, 

[00:37:37.58] Through a lens of ice, the dark heat of the sun burns wood, 

[00:37:42.08] Fires gunpowder, melts lead, 

[00:37:46.47] Perhaps a cloud of musk arises, 

[00:37:49.26] Such as issues from a crocodile in passion. 

[00:37:55.06] Unless light falls properly upon these flowers, you cannot see them. 

[00:38:04.98] All associations are this level rain down from above, 

[00:38:10.47] We talk of word pictures. 

[00:38:15.48] We observe vertigo. 

[00:38:18.15] We reach the cleft of a steep gully or couloir, 

[00:38:23.37] Very dangerous, 

[00:38:25.12] The path from the heights, 

[00:38:26.67] The glory of the prospect, the insight gained, 

[00:38:32.49] What I mean is a disturbance in all the senses at once. 

[00:38:40.55] You will not find the flowers confused, 

[00:38:45.58] Facing a certain wind, there is always danger. 

[00:38:53.33] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:38:59.74] SAWAKO NAKAYASU: Before I read my own poem, I'd like to give my deep thanks to the University of Arizona Poetry Center, to Julie Swarstad Johnson and everyone involved in making this podcast series and for giving me the opportunity to engage with the immense and incredible Voca archives. My poem is called "Ant in a Silvery Tide." And according to my notes, it was written just a few days before the death of my beloved cousin, Akashi Masanori, who died last year. Having written and published an entire book of ant poems already, I thought I would never write another ant poem. I also had not written poetry in a long time. And yet, with the sudden and unexpected loss of my cousin, ants and poems started streaming back in. 

[00:39:53.78] Ant in a Silvery Tide. 

[00:39:57.71] Carried along as if in the most banal of waves, 

[00:40:03.02] A fleet of rocks, an angry cloud threatened from a distance, 

[00:40:08.06] But are too far and too late to matter. 

[00:40:11.69] They clock in and clock out. 

[00:40:15.02] Banal wave of silvery ravens carries and carries the ant. 

[00:40:21.05] Spotlight beams down from above, and the tide of hunger keeps up with the ever smaller strides of the ant. 

[00:40:30.11] Dagger shoots in from stage left, and the ant and its silver hunger continue to pas de deux. 

[00:40:38.27] Dagger stabs the air over and over. 

[00:40:41.99] Stage drops away altogether. 

[00:40:45.53] Hunger continues to carry the ant as unkind as ever. 

[00:40:51.23] Silver rubs off on the ant. 

[00:40:54.15] The audience rises and begins to shout. 

[00:40:57.78] Neither the ant nor the raven hunger can decipher the temperature, the amplitude, the tenor of the shouts of the audience. 

[00:41:08.23] And so what if they could? 

[00:41:10.32] They clock in and clock out. 

[00:41:13.08] Ant carries on being carried and carried. Nothing else remains. 

[00:41:18.69] Hunger moves in, an enveloping gesture. 

[00:41:22.14] Silver moves into the raven. 

[00:41:24.99] The tide ebbs, box flows out and around. 

[00:41:29.76] If it were anything but itself, one might mistake it as a gesture of warmth. 

[00:41:35.34] The ant does not distinguish the heat from the hunger from the silvery raven. 

[00:41:41.37] Perhaps the boiling point of silver can be held at bay, 

[00:41:45.33] What, in some rare occasions, might be called a safe distance, 

[00:41:50.13] More likely to boil over is the tide, 

[00:41:53.28] But its sheer wideness makes dissipation more likely. 

[00:41:57.90] The heat in, on, around, and adjacent to the ant in a silvery tide of hunger is the longer, full title of this poem. 

[00:42:09.57] If only for a brief illusory moment, to go where? 

[00:42:14.73] Was it death, or was it raven? 

[00:42:17.58] Was it possible, or was it unkind? 

[00:42:21.21] Was it silver? Was it only to come? 

[00:42:28.10] [MUSIC PLAYING] 

[00:42:34.04] JULIE SWARSTAD JOHNSON: Thank you so much, Sawako. It's important to sit with all of these kinds of grief, and you've given us examples of how to do so in transformative ways. Listeners, thank you so much for your time. It's always a gift to know you're out there. This episode was the last in a set that we started in November, so it'll be summer before you hear from us again. But we have a great slate of poets already exploring Voca for those episodes. And in the meantime, you're always invited to explore Voca yourself. In addition to full readings and individual tracks on Voca, we have thematic playlist of poems and lesson plans. 

[00:43:12.38] Thank you again so much for being with us, and we'll see you next time. 

[00:43:16.39] ARIA PAHARI: Poetry Centered is a project of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, home to a world class library collection of more than 80,000 items related to contemporary poetry in English and English translation. Located on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson, the Poetry Center Library and buildings are housed on the Indigenous homelands of the Tohono O'odham and Pascua Yaqui. Poetry Centered is the work of Aria Pahari-- that's me- and Julie Swarstad Johnson. Explore Voca, the Poetry Center's audiovisual archive online at voca.arizona.edu. 

Timothy Liu's “A Requiem for the Homeless Spirits”
Daniel Borzutzky’s translation of Raul Zurita's “Song for His Disappeared Love”
Keith Waldrop's “An Apparatus”
Sawako Nakayasu reads "Ant in a silvery tide"