Jishin My Own

pretty title but what does it mean my husband asks
he wants me to answer that it’s just Japanese
for earthquake—but I can only respond in refrain
what does it mean—what does it mean—what
does it mean—what—God—what—does it mean
to someone like me—and eventually he leaves
the room—


Short-Term Affect

Nuclear reactors generate heat—the only ill side effect
I can remember—and they cool them with cold water
which is then dumped in rivers and it kills all the fish—
funny that I latched onto this—and only this—product—
something tangible in the scary world of radioactivity
and relatively benign—as soothing as a hot shower—these
years later when I went to write about Japanese earthquakes—

because how do you write tragedy without sounding cliché—
overly sentimental—caught in a sob story—or worse—
pandering? I set myself the challenge and as a scientist
at heart, I initially tried using facts, but the astronomical
numbers weren’t dry—rather—astounding—they were emotion
grabbing, yes, tragic—heart strings tugged—so I concentrated
on images with no commentary—no explanation—sensory
details—but I was relying on photojournalism—imagery already
chosen to retell the story—I never did my own original
research—I cried—sure—but never left my fireside hearth

and this strategy worked fine until I went to describe the people
in the blackouts—a horrible, nightmarish, overwhelming
blackness I could not see through—how can you sleep at night—
I asked myself—but I slept well—my window thrown open
with the calming scent of lilac bush below—as easy as a lavender
bubble bath—the golden sunlight warm upon my face—something
tangible—a touch as comforting as a cup of hot chamomile tea.


Long-Term Affect

In Welsh the word Jennifer means “white wave”—a name it seems
half the world shares and I have always detested as generic
and even my parents admit they were unprepared—I was one
of the only babies to ever leave the hospital without a name—
had to sleep in a dresser drawer for over two weeks—and this—
Jennifer—is what you finally came up with? I think—I think
it has scarred me for life—doomed me to a blank wash until

I think about how tsunamis appear out of nowhere—how unlike
lightning strikes—where you can see the thunderstorm overhead—
or tornados or even earthquakes—tsunamis are the effect of something
that happened thousands of miles away—how when choosing
a name for my own baby I called my mother and worried aloud
how he would be stuck with it forever and it might really affect him—
hinting I guess—yes—my mother said—but you have to like it too
because you are going to be saying it a lot in the years to come—
I think how could anyone love a spitting white wave? a tsunami
that grows as the seabed shrinks and it gathers height? and I want to write

poems as if my name means something—I want my mom to remember
this word forever—I am a white-waved tsunami and I want to write poetry
with a force that levels you—words that move with jet speed and drag
people along with them—that affect men women children and trees alike—
I am going to write poetry that comes out of nowhere and then leaves
everyone breathless—gasping—that always results in people thinking
I survived that—God—I survived that months and months ago.



“I doonnntt like this tornado...i was fine until i saw that tornado
hit Cullman sooo now i’m in the hallway and i have so many pillows
around me a tornado will not even know i am hiding.”
    -Loryn Brown’s final Facebook status, April 27, 2011, 4:42 p.m.

Not that the tornado can’t see you
But that you are so comfortable
Basking in downy layer upon layer
Of your family’s most intimate scents
So warm, so snug, so relaxed in softness
That the tornado can’t see your fear
Can’t see—can’t comprehend—anything
Other than the secure body’s senses—
I like to think of your words this way…

Writing about distant earthquakes
Was one thing—but this is much closer
To home—mere states away—a friend
Of a friend (of a friend…)—but I live
In Idaho and there are no earthquakes—
No tornados—in Idaho—I tell myself
We are safe from disaster—I tell myself
These carefully layered words—
So many pillows—a child’s fort…


Everywhere Chopsticks Touching

in Japan bodies burn at a lower temperature—there
are large chunks of bone left in the crematorium ash
that family members must later sort by working
a pair of giant chopsticks—together—this is why it is

such a faux pas to touch chopsticks with someone
while eating—it creates an uneasy feeling
of death—a jolting shiver like someone walking
over your future gravesite and I used this

when writing disaster poems—but the dilemma
was how to capture disaster without seeming cold—
I focused on images alone—splintered houses
everywhere—chopsticks touching—and I was happy

when the tornado hit Tuscaloosa—a tragedy
so much closer to heart—I tried the same strategy
but the damage looked the same—less mud maybe
but demolished homes look like demolished homes

everywhere—chopsticks touching—and survivors
sorting through the rubble searching for anything
usable in the random chaos I too manipulated my stick—
a pencil—and sorted with them for a reason—for a voice

most important—like the hyoid throat bone—a butterfly
that could change the weather as far away as Japan


Jennifer Met is a writer and artist living in North Idaho. Winner of the Jovanovich Award, she recently has work published or forthcoming in Gulf Stream, Barely South Review, Apeiron Review, Juked, Zone 3, Frogpond, Moon City Review, pacificREVIEW, A Hundred Gourds, Haibun Today, and elsewhere.

home  • archives  • submissions  • us