this simple learning

comes in a bright yellow
tin box left behind
by a Japanese woman
who lived in America
for half a century,
a naturalized citizen
who remained stubbornly
Japanese all her 86 years,

who allowed her body,
near the end, to willingly
fade away, to shrink
into a tiny cocoon of self
until that self floated
into a chrysalis of hope,

which rests here
in her yellow tin box,
in the zippers extracted
from clothes she or her
husband wore, in the brown
lace for basting wrapped
around a cardboard
rectangle, in a small
section of elastic,
and in two pieces
of rice paper wearing
a grid of brown vertical
lines and, between them,
neat kanji cascading
down the page,
a waterfall of words
I can’t read,

but I hope are
meaningful ones,
perhaps a letter from
her brother in Fukushima
prefecture before
the tsunami,
telling her about
his family, the weather,
the progress on restoring
the family tomb
in the cemetery;

she proudly showed me
the photos—the new
white steps up to
the cenotaph pointing
into the blue
of a new morning,
the kanji proclaiming
the family name —
Saito — descendants
of samurai, she’d say,
brave people, she’d say,

like you, I’d say,
as she’d duck her chin,
lower the shades
of her eyes
and blush.

(for Heide Juchnik, departed friend and long-time writing group member; photo by Windee Dawson)


About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to this simple learning

  1. Hilary A says:

    Immortality! Thank you, Jan.

    • janishaag says:

      Thank YOU, Hil! I still see Heide sitting next to you on Saturdays. You were her closest buddy in the writing group, our little companion spirit with us all.

  2. Kathryn Hohlwein says:

    I do not know Heidi, Jan, but how lovely and wonderful to have a tribute like this dedicated to her !

    • janishaag says:

      Thank you, Kathryn! She was a great teacher to all who were fortunate to know her. Heide prided herself on being the oldest SCC student, completing two A.A. degrees and taking classes up until a couple of years before her death. She was deeply devoted to my writing group and rarely missed a Saturday morning. We do miss her!

  3. Laura says:

    Beautiful, dear Jan. ❤️ You

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s