To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brandon Shimoda: from O BON, a note & a poem

[He comments]: O Bon was written in Montana, Virginia and Washington, 2005-2007. I had originally set myself the task of thinking about my grandfather—my father’s father, Midori Shimoda, a photographer—and simply that: thinking about him, his life. That alone seemed right, and more than enough to make it so. Born in Hiroshima in 1910, my grandfather immigrated to the United States at age nine, alone, in 1919. Imprisoned in a federal detention center in Missoula, Montana, during the Second World War, he did not become a citizen of the United States until 1955. He passed away in North Carolina, in September of 1996. A month after his death, and a month before his ashes were scattered in Death Valley, my grandfather visited me. It was morning—I was alone in the house I grew up in. My grandfather’s appearance was immediately preceded by a thunderclap and a surge of total light. He appeared before me fully corporeal—“not a ghost / but a man of ash without speech.” He did not speak, though I took his visit to be an order of stewardship over his life. I did not mean to resurrect him, though after many years of failed attempts, I began to visit in return. 

The Inland Sea 

An ovary held between white grasses
drinks praise from attentive
blooms along hard, dated
ground      a single life’s 

length below

I slip into atomy

my family walked into      the river uneven
curtain stretched from the wood—

feet swelling with dead
weight splintered lamps
arousing cold
water ankles drawn by river grass 

their legs (their shins, wool
knees wiring thighs  

their hands (their fingers
curling fingertips, nails, the moss beneath
their fingernails 

ash in the folds of their knuckles
palms stitched with divinatory lines, the braid of their wrists
arms slack to their hips 

chests (flowering
lungs their upper arms, the current
rinsing the skin on  


lips varicose
solvencies flooding
the brain with every opening 

to speak
in calling each
other close 


upon stone


the redolent lance
of eucalyptus— 

There was a time      the trees were young and supportive 

with cataracts 

lashes coil
round eyeless veins 

stretching      thin 


the banks hair

water bulbs
root smoke veiling 



are their heads      what
may I rest my head      my hands
upon      of them                  

The guards found me wrapped
in a bladder
seized with the enormity of flesh
blockbuster of faces
in the making of all I was hungry
animal dumb to its labors

The tastelessness of flesh
upon a ravaged tongue the taste
of flesh to an eroding brain
buds on a ravaged tongue 

the removal of the tongue 

A waxen rose
intemperance of red 

weather planes angling through contrails
double droning a negative sky


Inside of the nucleus of the Atomium
every surface is
a mirror I see my family in

though I never learned any of their names
for fear they would have changed my course

my shadow
the disembodied

White umbrellas gaining earth


Grow open my mouth 

that I speak as I speak
a sea forms

the sky permitting itself
at once
            of me, and out—             

a procession of waves
drawing piles of stone, piles of stone 

[editor’s note.  The excerpts here are from O Bon (Litmus Press, Brooklyn, NY), one of two remarkable books by Brandon Shimoda published in 2011.  The other  book is The Girl Without Arms (Black Ocean, Boston, MA).  Writes Tomaz Salamun: “Brandon Shimoda seems to be an Ur-being, a totally new creature: And I never wanted children, but now / I want children / To drop / Through skeletal netting / Nameless / Into black beds / As like unto potters aglow in generous helpings of children. We, standing by, reading, shivering in awe, are stopped.  Mute, then refreshed and launched.  His children.”]

1 comment:

William A. Sigler said...

Unlike the disguised linearity of so many post-language poets, Shimoda offers no consolations of form, only the rawest of feelings rendered with the most delicate means, as a painter arranges elements that would wound otherwise for being wrong. Unlike virtually every other poet I’ve read, one can’t complete his thoughts before he does, or contemplate the plain of extremity from which his cadence ushers. We appreciate his explanation that this is an homage to his grandfather, grateful that there is at least this mooring even as it drifts further and inconsolably away. In this he reminds me of Paul Celan: “Iris, swimmer, dreamless and dim:/ the sky, heart-gray, must be near…//Did we not stand/under one tradewind?/We are strangers.)//The tiles. Upon them,/close together, the two/heart-gray pools:/two/mouthfuls of silence.”

Thank you for sharing this important work. A longer excerpt of this piece can be found at Typo Mag.