Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 70 Years Later


The funny thing about traveling through Japan, as a Caucasian, is that you are automatically assumed to be American, whether you are or not. Normally, that simply translates into children waving at you and shouting, “Haro! Haro!” (i.e., Hello! Hello!), but in some places it is extremely uncomfortable, primarily in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On the one hand, nowhere else have I felt so visibly and problematically American. I walk around the peace parks, looking at the dioramas of the damage done and the absolute nothing that was left in so many places, and I think, “My people did this.” On the other hand, the people of those two cities have so internalized the need for world peace that they are powerfully forgiving. They know that their government did some fairly unforgivable things also during World War II. One of the elderly women I met when I lived in Japan, 1990-1992, told me of the kindness of the American GIs during the occupation, and how one even managed to get eggs and flour so she could make her sister a birthday cake. War. Humans. Ridiculous acts of violence and tiny acts of kindness.




Something about this breeze

damply fresh at 4 a.m. touching

my face as I stand on the concrete

platform, sway slightly, wait

for a train to take me, oh, anywhere

really, but especially south, southwest

to Nagasaki, international city,

city of the other bomb, city of pigeons

masquerading as doves.


Every bird is a dove

in a place like that, every

recreated building a monument

that looks you right in the eye.

I know. I have walked

Hiroshima’s busy streets. I’ve walked

where apocalypse burned

and was defeated, for now.


For now, I stand

on the platform, swaying with sleep

unrealized. Where I am going,

I will feel eyes all over: me,

blond, gaijin, outside-person, American.

Eyes like black rain remember

when a cool breeze could scald

a face beyond recognition.

The breeze that keeps me upright

while fluorescent lights battle

the darkness is filled with possibilities.

All roads lead from this one.


This one train could begin taking me

anywhere, measuring out the miles

with its laddered tracks. It will take me south

to a park filled with cherry blossoms

and monuments. A wall and,

perched on it, a weathered bronze dove.

A pigeon filled with love

by the damp bright air, who will land

and kiss the green dove,

beak to beak. The kiss of peace.


It is peaceful here on the platform,

alone and swaying, fighting

to open my eyes. The train will come soon.

The city will be filled with people,

jostling and contrary. I must remember

something then, when I arrive,

something about this breeze.


Spilecki, Susan. “Pilgrim.” The Kerf. May 2001.

Liebster Award!

I am honored to have been nominated for the blogging Liebster Award by Nicole from How to Fangirl for Adults. Go check out her blog! The Liebster Award is an award by bloggers for bloggers that is passed forward, and it has some other cool bells and whistles too!


The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog on your blog
  • Display the award on your blog–by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note: The best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then uploading it to your blog post)
  • Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  • Provide 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 1,000 followers (Note: You can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
  • Create a new list of questions for the bloggers to answer
  • List these rules in  your post (You can copy and paste from here).
  • Once you have written and published it, you have to inform the people/blog that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Nicole’s Questions

  1. If you had unlimited resources and time, what would be your dream cosplay or costume? Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’d have said Xena: Warrior Princess but I am way to short to carry it off.
  2. Your current favorite song? “On the Road of Experience”
  3. Do you have any pets? If not, what kind of pet would you like to have? Yes, a tuxedo cat named Musashi.
  4. What is a movie everyone needs to have seen in their life? The Princess Bride. Crazy quotes for ever occasion.
  5. When did you write your very first blog post? Late last November.
  6. Do you write outside of blogging? If so, what do you write? If not, what do you like to do outside of blogging? Mostly poetry these days.
  7. Where is your favorite place to write? Coffee shops.
  8. What is your guilty pleasure TV show? Like that really bad reality TV and TLC type of stuff? Xena: Warrior Princess and anything Joss Whedon does.
  9. What is your number one fandom? (yes, you have to pick one) Xena, but I really want to BE Agent Carter.
  10. In one word how would you describe your blog? Diverse.
  11. What is the absolute best type of ice cream out there? Starbucks coffee almond.

11 Facts about Myself

  1. I lived in Japan for two and a half years, teaching English and studying kendo.
  2. On a good day I can write a sestina in one sitting.
  3. I have a mini Stonehenge in my office at MIT.
  4. I never know what to do with Kale.
  5. I still have a dumb phone.
  6. I went on Pottermore and got put into Ravenclaw.
  7. I alternate months of ridiculously productive writing with months like a vast Desert of No Writing Ideas.
  8. I have almost four octaves when I sing.
  9. I have never owned a car.
  10. I have never had a cavity.
  11. I looooooooves Boston.

My Questions

  1. What is your favorite book to reread?
  2. If you could be any hero, who would you be?
  3. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
  4. How do you avoid writer’s block?
  5. What movie would you watch if you were feeling down?
  6. Do you speak/read a second language? Which one?
  7. What do you like best about blogging?
  8. Spartans or Ninjas? Why?
  9. Captain America or Ironman?
  10. What is your favorite summer drink?
  11. What weird writing rituals do you have, if any?

My Nominations

  1. The Insightful Panda
  2. Bookminded
  3. Pop Cultured Randoms
  4. Pop Cult HQ
  5. Like Mercury Colliding

Voice: Made from Eyes and Heart and Some Legos


I was just reading Ann E. Michael’s blog post about voice and it got me thinking. She quotes Stanley Kunitz, who thought images from childhood were a key part of voice, but I am not completely convinced. I feel like I did not find an outer landscape that matched my inner landscape until I went to college in Vermont. If I were to write with my childhood imagery, there would be a lot more fireflies and dragonflies in my writing, more lilacs and sunflowers, small islands in the center of small lakes, and cloud animals.

Instead, I have a deep love of the passing seasons, the colors of mountains changing as the color of the trees changes, rolling hills, flashing waterfalls, and somewhere a cow or two hanging out. Living in Japan also affected my poetry strongly. The Japanese often represent the seasons in their visual arts and literature. And I think the complex process of translation that is living in a very different culture also changed the way I hear my voice. Also, the moon: there is a famous Japanese poem written while the poet was working in China as a sort of ambassador and missed his wife, something like how we all walk beneath the same moon. I still find that comforting and I think that is why the moon comes up often in my poetry.

One of the interesting things I have learned from studying singing is that I can feel where my voice is in my body. The high parts resonate in the head and the low parts resonate in the chest. It seems to me very important to remember that we write from the body. It is not enough to have a brain and hands.

And of course part of voice/style is always going to be technical, how you put the words together in a way that conveys your personal music. You keep rearranging the parts until it comes together the way you want it.


The Quiet Stories of Japanese Woodblock Art


I lived in Matsuyama, Japan from 1990 to 1992, teaching English and studying kendo, Japanese fencing. Since coming home, I occasionally find myself wandering in the Japanese section of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). While the kimonos and swords are works of art and poetry themselves, with their elegance and attention to minute detail, it is the woodblock art, ukiyo-e, which grasped my attention and made me want to learn more. Two of my favorite artists are Hokusai and Hiroshige. Today I’ll tell you about the first.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) made many different kinds of sketches and woodblock art, from portraits and still lifes to erotica and illustrations for humorous poems, but what he is best known for is his landscapes, particularly his two collections of Views of Mount Fuji. Most people are familiar with the “Great Wave off Kanagawa” (I even have a T-shirt of this!), but some of his less famous works offer me the opportunity for yet another Important Excitement/Small Obsession. And lots of poetry.

For me, the beauty of his landscapes lies not just in the visual beauty, but in the way he adds people to the scenes, villagers and travelers who are responding to each other, to the view, to the viciousness and beauty of nature. And when I look at these pictures in art books and draw on what I learned as an East Asian Studies minor at Middlebury College, I start to tell myself stories about what is happening, who those people are, what their hopes and dreams are, and what small epiphanies I can open up by telling those stories through poetry. Here is one from my upcoming ebook, Icons and Action Figures (Batteries Not Included):

Mount Fuji Seen from Eijiri

(Hokusai, 1823~29)

Typhoon season begins this way:

with a sudden gust

slamming travelers forward

blasting road-dust against their legs

hat papers leaves becoming birds

flutter and soar, tumble and fly—

the trees lean after their leaves

longing to follow

while the travelers stumble

cursing luck and wind and all

impermanence, the loss of letters

painted by hands of white silk,

the loss of a sloping straw hat that leaves

a poor man vulnerable

to the gushing rains

that wait, like Mount Fuji,

solid and irrevocable against the sky.

Spilecki, Susan. “Mount Fuji Seen from Eijiri.” Verve (1996) 8:1.