Emma Lee


from Voices after a Tsunami
The Tohoku Pacific Earthquake (scale 9) and Tsunami hit Japan on 11 March 2011.


A handshake’s worth of stress
caused an earthquake, and triggered a tsunami;
as if a giant bucket of waste water,
left after washing traffic film from a car,
had been knocked over,
sweeping model towns through the garden
until momentum stalls, it seeps into the ground
and people sink into stasis.



Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture

“I will never forget this for the rest of my life, and I think it is important that I do not forget this.” (anonymous medical team member)

Where a body is found, the rescue workers
tie a red flag and offer a prayer.
There are too many flags to count.

Uncooked rice and melted snow
cause gastro-enteritis. When I draw blood,
it’s black and thick. Supplies are “on the way.”

A week on, the radio announces death tolls.
A newborn cries. A siren signals
a moment’s silence at the time the earthquake struck.

A boy reading a book tells me
there’s a cloth of time he dreams he could wrap
around the city and take it back to before.

“Are you in love?” a girl asks.
I tell her he has a beard. “Like Santa Claus?
I wonder if he will come next winter.

“My house is gone now.
He will still stop, won’t he?
I want my house and my mummy.”

We made a footbath, heated with fires
and invited evacuees. “We’re pretty much family,”
an old man wipes his face.

In contrast to the mountains of rubble
and muddy ground, the stars are always beautiful
against the black sky every night.



Emma Lee’s collection Yellow Torchlight and the Blues is available from Original Plus. She blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com and reviews for Sphinx and The Journal. She tweets at @Emma_Lee1.

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