The Rolling Waves of Home

Long Beach, Washington, June 2012

This is the moment on the sand
     when I see what it is that lies here at my feet
          tangled in the driftwood
     flecked with feathers
          draped with seaweed

Yellow chunks of insulation
     from soba shops and sake stores
          from houses
               upon houses

Shoyu pooled brown in bottles
     mouthwash and toothbrushes
          a television
     from kitchens and living rooms
          from bathrooms and bedrooms

I walk the snaking strandline
     over sandals
          and the soles of rubber boots

I know now each thing has its meaning

This is not trash

Nobody threw these things away

What show was Ojii-chan watching
     that sunny Friday afternoon
          when the alert came on?

What dish was Obaa-chan making
     when the floor bucked and swayed
          when the contents of her cupboards
     fell down upon her
          the shouts
     of neighbors ringing through the streets?

Where could they have run
     as sirens blared
          and the ocean roared behind them
     as she lost her sandal on the stairs?

That night here seven thousand miles from home
     I watched my childhood washed away
          in blackened surf
               in wooden waves

I stand here now and know
     I can never go home again

But borne on blackened surf
     on wooden waves
          home has come to me.

(UPDATE: You can now read this poem in Japanese as well.)

4 Replies to “The Rolling Waves of Home”

  1. Thanks. The banner tagline is from a Thoreau quote: “What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?”

  2. Andy, Your beachcombing experience evokes deep emotions within me. It’s been 22 years now since leaving Japan, but the flotsam of the past still bumps some tender nerves. Thanks for writing and posting this. I enjoy reading your prose and poetry. Keep it up.

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