Poems from Japan

Poem for Our Anniversary

Even now we sometimes find ourselves
pretending that we do not know each other.
Your passport says that you are British.
Your face says that you are Japanese.
I am indelibly alien.

A small denial, a small tragedy.
Nothing that shows up in the photograph album
with its pictures of you smiling at Izumo,
smiling at Ise,
smiling at Nikko, or just smiling
with the trees and the rocks and the waterfall
carefully arranged in the background.

Do you remember the day we got engaged?
Your mother sighed in the kitchen.
Your father hastily lit a cigarette.
It would be difficult.
There would be problems.
The matter would have to be looked at
from all angles.
Long silence.
After that we kept our distance.
You cried into your orange juice
while I fooled around with a vegetable sandwich.
‘Perhaps you don’t know how much I love you.’

So we got married anyway.
You in your borrowed kimono,
me in my borrowed suit.
The shrine maidens giggled in a corner.
The priest was like Father Christmas:
trousers beneath his robe,
his stomach still clutching
an undigested hamburger.
No tears, no untidy emotion,
not even a kiss.
A typical Japanese wedding.

After the speeches, the songs,
the unexpected telegram from the Mitsui Bussan
English Conversation Club,
just you and me waiting for a train
at Akihabara Subway Station.
‘Who cares about “the divorce settlement”?’
We laughed and threw the bouquet
into the trash can.

First published in Outposts.