Return After Earthquake

although left for months
my house is still standing
here on terra firma
branches broken by snow
fallen into the dead garden
trace cuneiform letters
if legible
they would spell out
a record of absence
of blinding blizzard afternoons
of evenings wrapped in white
of the minute happenings
of hibernating, unmoving nights

during that time
decay has visited
raccoons have scattered
the wood pile once again
the hallway light has burned out
the cracks in the plaster have grown wide
and for some reason, a picture
hangs at an awkward angle
these small bits of ruin
are not the earthquake’s fault
the house has grown old
and I as well

there, in the room where
the furniture is shut away
more shadow dances than light
look carefully, perhaps
it is just the cold
but these tired house walls
seem to tremble
under their nervous weight
if these minute tremors
are not for me
they are for nothing
and for nobody


is an associate professor of Japanese and translation at Western Michigan University. He is the author of Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Japanese Modernist Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and translator of Killing Kanoko: Selected Poems of Itō Hiromi (Action Books, 2009), the award-winning Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako (University of California Press, 2010), and numerous other works of prose and poetry. He also writes poetry in his second language, Japanese.