In this excerpt, Eric Norris writes about an awkward, thoughtful conversation with his Japanese-American boyfriend, both men recalling their fathers’ roles in World War II.
The date was the 4th of November. It
read 9:11 in the store. Now,
we pass a bus stop where a black Marine
stares from a poster, serious, not mean.
“My dad was a Marine in Tokyo
back in the sixties. God, he loved Japan.
It was so cheap! He bought a tuxedo
there. Trim, black silk, tailored by hand.
He wore it once. To church. That’s all I know.
A church in Buffalo, not Hokkaido.
He used to fool the cigarette machines
on base with ten yen coins, since it seems
they weigh the same as quarters. All the men
who smoked did that. They kept a few rolls
of ten yen pieces to buy Marlboros
buried in their bunks—or up their asses—when
preparing for inspection. But he quit
when he got married.” Ever so polite,
Takaaki let me talk about my dad
and his adventures with mute amusement
until we reached his corner and we had
chatted with a lawyer from his apartment
preceded by a curious dachshund.
He sniffed and lifted over an abandoned
Schwinn curled around a parking meter. “My
dad was in Air Force.” Another, “Hi,”
came from the grizzled doorman greeting us
along with an explosion of hot air
sending newspaper flying from his chair—
a copy of The Post, I think it was.
“I thought that we disbanded your Air Force.
You mean Self-Defense Force, of course.”
He turned the key in his mailbox, “No—
no mail. Te kanji. Nobody loves me—
well.” We walked across the lobby, “He
was in Air Force.” We looked up, “World War
Second.” We watched floor after floor
falling to Earth in silence. When I said,
“He must have been quite young,” he looked ahead,
supplying a non-sequitur. “He was
supposed to be pilot in September.” “What
year was that?” Takaaki didn’t say. “But
he didn’t have to be pilot because
you dropped the bomb.” The elevator shot
into the Heavens then. “If you had not
I would not exist.” Floor twenty-one.
Our faces slid apart—the fragile frame
the dim interior provided—gone.
Our faces were replaced by light—which came
as something of a shock: a dazzling whiteness,
a light of such intensity, such brightness
it almost seemed designed to make you cry,
like love. Takaaki dangled keys, but I
held nothing so substantial—air. I saw
a disappointed boy in a flight suit,
dragging the tip of a sword behind him, cute,
a shadow of a beard along his jaw
might signify his youth—say seventeen.
What would he do now? What did it all mean—
this rush of feeling through my heart I had—
the news that Hiroshima, Nagasaki
had spared a kamikaze—this same lad—
who would become the father of Takaaki?
Perhaps it is unthinkable to build
a small boy from plutonium. Still,
I have held a pair of hands that prove
you can accomplish anything with love:
build a bomb, create a family, you
name it. The rain will fall, the sun will shine,
indifferent to our monuments. Let mine
be this: the door Takaaki led me through
to slippers, Joy and Sadness. And to bed,
where, loving the living, we mourn the dead.
Originally published, in its entirety, in The Raintown Review.
Interested in submitting poetry to The Good Men Project? Check out our guidelines.
Like The Good Men Project on Facebook
Photo by Jacob01123 /Flickr