The idea of the kids still haunts me ten years later.
Very infrequently I have nightmares about ghostly green, purple, and burnt orange faces of Japanese children floating above their anguished parents, who are still living bitter lives in tiny yatai-shaped temporary houses scattered throughout a cartoon nuclear meltdown hellscape version of Fukushima.
I know the reality isn’t quite that bad. But ten years on folks in Tōhoku still can’t go home, and in the deep ocean there are the bones of innocent kids from 3/11 that will never be discovered nor buried. For ten years the loss of those lives and their potential has bothered me, and probably always will.
I wrote this poem about the lost children in 2014 for the third anniversary of the disaster. It’s also an ode to the sorrow and horror felt by a man who merely edited other people’s stories from the disaster but didn’t actually experience it himself. So take that for what it’s worth as you read the poem, and I hope you enjoy it…
Gone, just gone
The bubblegum kids no one is ever going to know,
rotting out their lives in the cold of Mishima’s boiling sea.
There’s grace in the truncheons of justice they may have become.
There’s iron will in the blood they will never spill on land.
There’s a permanent school of candyfloss and diamond textbooks
waiting to teach them about the ghosts of great emperors.
It’s the time when they died that will never forgive, and will ever hate itself
for taking them walking to the undersea graves of lost civilizations.
There’s teeny shoes floating in the sea that had warm, happy feet in them.
There’s a TV somewhere that always shows cartoons only Japanese children can understand.
There’s a tear we cry for strangers who will never grow up to be our friends.
Or invent new light.
Or cure the gangrene in our hateful bones.
There is soil that will never be disturbed, for there is no reason to displace it for graves.
It is fine soil, still, and we should honor it by planting flowers that taste like rice candy.
We should remember that sometimes the bubblegum kids see with both a living and a dead set of eyes.
And we should love them, and we should remember them,
And we should hold what we know of them with a warmth that radiates down into the deepest chasm at the bottom of the sea.
(—For the lost children of Japan after March 11th, 2011. Photograph taken in Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo in September 2013. See my other photo work here and here.)