one of the coldest things i did in japan was walk across the finger boards
of the green onion café and sit down on a bar stool and speak my lines
(including one super-polite word which i read from the back of my hand)
one of the most linguistically difficult things i did in japan was to memorise
how to say in japanese i am so sorry to hear about your son jun dying and
here is 3000 yen for flowers for his grave
one of the saddest things i did in japan was teach to jun’s photo on his empty
desk i asked the students to count the students in the class the students said
do we count jun
This poem has been haunting me since the terrible events in Japan. So Johanna has kindly allowed me to post it and share it.
I was running a loose sort of poetry night at Barista in Palmerston North while I was Visiting Literary Artist at Massey University last year. And Johanna came along which was great. Very cool poet girl that she is. She had spent three years teaching English in a Japanese fishing village so one of the first poems she read to us was Jun. Oh we liked it. We liked it very much. I suggested she enter it for the NZ Poetry Society competition because I was sure Viv Plumb would like it. And guess what, Viv Plumb did like it and it won. So that was all very cool.
When I say we liked the poem, of course we liked it feelingly. It is about a terrible loss and how to find the words to express your sorrow for the loss, and how to make a gesture which is appropriate, and then how to continue on living with that loss.
Johanna's second book – a long girl ago – was published by Victoria University Press.