“taken to private areas & harmed” By Jason Emde

thwarted by typhoons & no ferry
to Aka Island till maybe tomorrow
we rent a car & drive
to the Former Japanese
Navy Underground
Headquarters —

Okinawa means
rope over the sea

— hacked deep in the hill in ’44 by soldiers
with pickaxes & hoes & rope
baskets for hauling
the dirt to the surface,
450 meters & no
toilets

& now here comes the Typhoon of Steel:
half a million Americans with guns,
blackout, bombardment, the noise the noise,
the island on fire

reverse slope corkscrew
& blowtorch, crows
of smoke, sweet potato brandy
for the Emperor’s birthday.

Staff officer’s room:
shrapnel-spattered wall & a sign that says
jiketsu sareta toki no teryudan no dankon
which is translated as
WALL RIDDLED WITH A HAND-GRENADE
WHEN COMMITTED SUICIDE

— I put my finger in a shrapnel hole
just like I fingered
a bullet hole in Berlin
busted-up crematorium remains in Birkenau
napalm-scorched stone lantern in Gifu
the air in Tiananmen Square —

& down the final hall & through the final door
with a homemade spear, a bayonet lashed
to a stick
to die with an American bullet in your eye
& lie under a screw pine
forever — corpses so abundant that
when walking at night civilians
carry wooden sticks
so as not to step on
dead bodies
in the dark

Scraped flat by the roller
wrote Sylvia Plath
of wars, wars, wars

Rear Admiral Ota wrote
a telegram in the tunnel
& sent it to the Navy Vice Admiral
& said
This battle is nearing its end
There are no trees, no grass
Everything is burnt to the ground

even Joe with his jalopy energies
is subdued down here
in the old-tooth light
& flicker-drip

throw me a rope
sang Gillian Welch
from the rolling tide

the tunnels are
not so far from Hacksaw Ridge
not so far from Shuri Castle
not so far from Sun Palace, our
hotel by the canal
in Naha where I sit
under chattering American helicopters
& the moon locked in a ring
of freezing mist

ready when you are
sarge


Jason Emde is a teacher, writer, amateur boxer, and graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia. He’s also the author of My Hand’s Tired and My Heart Aches (Kalamalka Press, 2005) and the co-author of the parodic action novel The Crunch Gang Meet the Deadly Zombie Ninjas of Japan (e-book, 2018). His work has appeared in Ariel, Real Travel, The Malahat Review, Anastamos, Miracle Monocle, Prometheus Dreaming, Panoply, Soliloquies Anthology, The Watershed Review, and numerous other publications. Jason lives in Japan with his wife, Maho, and their typhoon sons, Joe and Sasha.

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