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two poems

by Naoko Fujimoto

This Is About Time

A blindman sold lilies,

“Give silver flowers, not bullets.”

Around the cavernous hillside, young girls stabbed their soft skin

with their shaking hands there was no

choice of living through this war—

their bodies cut open flies laid eggs in them.

I saw this in the Himeyuri Memorial when I was six

after the first Gulf War just started I asked Grandmother

Have they visited Himeyuri?

and she said, they should— white blossoms covered the rugged entrance,

clean pavement,

straight to another war—

I am thirty-five now,

drive to the supermarket and wonder about our outward peace.

Don’t we know we never left the cave,

we are like the floating spirits,

we repeat again.

Would I kill my newborn because she cries too hard—

the loudness of I want to live

I am scared.

The Horse

And without fear, Grandmother slid into a ditch under a small bridge.

People were running like blind beetles

from rains of incendiary shells;

charred dust plugged their ears and noses—

when the bridge collapsed, everything scattered in slow-motion.

A tail brushed her face,

and a surprising whinny turned her around.

She called it, Omma-sama,

“I stayed with Omma-sama until I could see the sunset.”

Her mother had been

waiting long enough to believe

her dead

among powdered ghosts

covered in broken concrete under snapped electric


Later that evening, her mother scrubbed her cheeks

until they were bright pink—reciting, “Omma-sama saved you,”

and they ate beautiful white rice with red beans.

“It was an inappropriate food during the war,” Grandmother said.


Naoko Fujimoto was born and raised in Nagoya, Japan. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Poetry, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review, Seattle Review, Quarterly West, North American Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Prairie Schooner. She is the author of Glyph: Graphic Poetry=Trans. Sensory (Tupelo Press, 2021), Where I Was Born (Willow Publishing, 2019), and three chapbooks. She is an associate & outreach translation editor at RHINO Poetry.


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