poet Hiromi Itō

Hiromi Itō

Mother Leads Us On Board (from WILD GRASS UPON A RIVERBANK)

Mother leads us along
And we get on board
We get on, get off, then on again
We board cars and busses
We board planes
Then more buses and trains and cars

The place where we arrive is a building full of muffled voices, it has a cold corridor where people have gathered in droves, they're all looking confused, they're all looking confused as they don't know what'll come next, they're sitting and looking around with wide open eyes, the room becomes dark, and mother's form rises up

Mother mumbles to herself
So what do we do now?
Mother taps the floor with her wrinkled hand and whispers
It's because you was born we're living like this
Mother closes her eyes halfway, grabs her breasts and scolds us
She repeats
It's been so hard since you were born
It's been so hard since you were born
My little brother begins to sob
I ask him what's the matter
He says I hate it here, I hate it here
He says I don't want to see her
He says I want to run away and go home
She's mean, she makes me sick, she's dirty
It's like she'll rub off on us
I don't want to see or hear her, I want to go home
My little brother sobbed in sorrow as he speaks

All the people have unfamiliar faces, they sit in unfamiliar fashions, no one seems to understand Japanese, mother is sitting alone on a stage then she stands up and thumps her feet against the floor, to everyone else it is nothing but noise, then mother squeezes a noise from her mouth, to me it sounds more like a voice than plain old noise, it has meaning, it has emotion, it is sad at moments and happy at moments, it has meaning, it has meaning, but to all the other people, it's nothing but noise

Mother says
We're grown up, we're laughing, living bodies, all ‘cause we're alive
Mother repeats
We're grown up, we're laughing, living bodies, all ‘cause we're alive

Once I asked mother, do all those people understand?
Mother responded
I don't think so
Why are you doing that if they don't understand?
Doesn't your voice just come out and fade away?
Mother responded
I wonder
Why do all those people come if they don't understand?
Mother responded
Isn't it precisely because they don't understand?
Mother repeats over and over
Living bodies, ‘cause we're alive
Why've we come somewhere no one'll understand us?
Mother responds
Maybe we can get some money
Mother repeated over and over
Living bodies, ‘cause we're alive
I hate it here, my little brother says
Go to sleep, I whisper
He puts his head between his hands
Covers his ears, closes his eyes
And before long he stops moving
I also am starting to doze
My little brother's eyes are closed
Still covering his ears, he falls sound asleep
And starts to melt away
I also am starting to doze
That's me, that's me
That's me, that's me
The voice fades away, mother gives a small laugh
Relieved, the other visitors laugh too

We're shaken awake, the men bark out long strings of words we can't understand, my little brother and I don't know how to respond, mother is speaking to some people and doesn't even turn to look at us, she's speaking to some people and doesn't even turn to look at us, then hours later, mother finally looks back at us and tells us we're going, she leads us to a hotel, without even combing our hair we crawl underneath the stiff sheets on the narrow bed and fall asleep, my little brother is soft and warm, mother is hard and cold, mother and I fall asleep holding my brother, we fall asleep, everyone touching everyone else's arms and legs, their dry hands caress me during the night, I am so tired I don't even brush their hands away when they pull my ponytail in their sleep

Mother leads us along
And we get on board
We get on cars and busses and planes
Then more busses and trains and cars
My little brother says that was fun
At one of the airports where we got on
The room we were waiting in
Turned into a bus and started moving
Then merged with the plane
But I don't remember getting on anything like that

We sleep here and there in the airports, we play here and there in the airports, we tumble over and bump into things here and there in the airports, I get scolded, my little brother cries, food is bought, we don't eat it all and throw it away, we coax mother for things, we get scolded, there are lots of families like us, parents let their children eat, parents scold their children, some of the families traveling from airport to airport have their hair cut, some have it braided, some have it tied up, some have it shaved right off, but everyone is wearing clothes of different colors, everyone is waiting, everyone is spread out all over the airport waiting all over the place, every last one of them is waiting except for the children who are not eating or sleeping or waiting but tumbling over, bumping into things, and playing just like us

It is dark inside the planes
I watch the movies but the screen is either too far away or too close
In the seat next to mine
My little brother slumps over asleep
Mother has covered him up in darkness
I watch the movies
People get angry and get killed
In a language I don't understand
In the seat next to mine
My little brother slumps over asleep

After I thought she had fallen asleep, mother starts moving under the covers in the darkness
with a certain monotonous rhythm, then she lets out a long breath and stops moving,
when she does this I smell the same sweet and sour scent as always, it is not the smell of passing gas,
nor the smell of breast milk, nor the smell of her navel, after she lets out a long breath
and stops moving she falls asleep, I try doing the same thing, then I stretch and spread myself out slowly,
allowing me to sleep a little, allowing me to sleep just a little

I watch the movies
If I don't put on the earphones
I can get away without listening
To their angry shouts and death cries
In the seat next to mine
My little brother slumps over asleep
In the darkness mother weeps silently to herself
Quietly she weeps to herself

When we get off the plane my little brother throws up
The long, long conveyor belt clatters along
Mother holds my brother covered in vomit
And walks along the conveyor belt with great speed
As the long, long conveyor belt clatters along

After I thought she had fallen asleep, mother starts moving under the covers in the darkness with a certain monotonous rhythm, then she lets out a long breath and stops moving, when she does this I smell the same sweet and sour scent as always, it is not the smell of passing gas, nor the smell of breast milk, nor the smell of her navel, after she lets out a long breath and stops moving she falls asleep, I try doing the same thing, then I stretch and spread myself out slowly, allowing me to sleep a little, allowing me to sleep just a little

I watch the movies
If I don't put on the earphones
I can get away without listening
To their angry shouts and death cries
In the seat next to mine
My little brother slumps over asleep
In the darkness mother weeps silently to herself
Quietly she weeps to herself

When we get off the plane my little brother throws up
The long, long conveyor belt clatters along
Mother holds my brother covered in vomit
And walks along the conveyor belt with great speed
As the long, long conveyor belt clatters along

It takes one day and one night to reach immigration, the route is lined with many, many immigrants who have collapsed along the way and shriveled up, no matter how wealthy the country, they never make the path to immigration any shorter, their wealth won't help us, there is just sadness, curt answers and pain, immigration is nowhere in particular, and to make matters worse, there is no guarantee we'll make it through, my little brother doesn't notice but I do, our passports are bad, I had noticed that at immigration in every country, the men make mean faces and stare at their computers, that's ‘cause our passports are bad, my little brother tried looking into the computer and got scolded, not just once, not just twice but more than that, the men point us to another window and mother leads us to one place after another, rushing us here and there

As mother leads us one place after another
Rushing us here and there
All sorts of things get pulled out
Telephone lines and books of telephone numbers and postcards
And old passports punched full of holes
And leftover airplane food and changes of pants
And apples with missing bites and the tip of a dried-up arm
And small bottles full of bugs
The bugs are dead inside the bottle
Some man calls out to us, you dropped something, you dropped something
You dropped something, you dropped something, pick it up, pick it up
So we pick it up
And put it back where it belongs
Mother leads us one place after another
Rushing us here and there
And when we reach the window, no one's there
So we wait before the empty window
There's no guarantee the window will open
My little brother asks what will we do if no one comes?
My mother responds then this is where we'll live
And with that she smiles

In one corner of the great immigration hall my little brother is slumped over asleep in the row of hard chairs before the empty window, watching him is enough to put me to sleep too, something is pulling at me so I brush it aside, it's that dried-up arm, the tip seems to break when I brush it aside, it makes a dry sound as it falls to the ground, no sooner do I realize what's happened then someone shakes me awake, mother's standing up and saying we're ready to go, I ask if the bad part of our passport had gotten fixed, she tells me no, she tells me a bad passport is always bad, we go outside the airport and as we put our three bad passports away, mother nudges us as if to say, look we're going

Once again we're getting on board
No matter how often we arrive
Our journey still does not end

Translation: Jeffrey Angles

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Poem Edited: Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Add this poem to MyPoemList
5 out of 5
0 total ratings
rate this poem

Comments about Mother Leads Us On Board (from WILD GRASS UPON A RIVERBANK) by Hiromi Itō

There is no comment submitted by members..



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?