Two poems by Tamiko Dooley

Photo by S. Tsuchiya on Unsplash

 
 
 

    Susumu

 

The sun beat down on Tokyo intensely:
Forty-five in the shade. The matsu tree
Stretched out across Susumu’s back garden,
Providing relief from the scorching heat.

Susumu’s dad had finally convinced
Him to have the minor operation:
Yarinasai, he’d growled, don’t be a coward –
Susumu was frightened but had no choice.

They hadn’t expected his reaction
To the anaesthetic on the table.
Samurais fall on swords than show weakness:
The old Lie was exposed and the old man
Wept under the branches shading his face
From the fire that watched Icarus fall.

 
 
 

    Tadaima (I’m home)

 

On the way to your house in Nakano:
I heard the slurp of salarymen as they sat at ramen bars
Backs hunched over their bowls like blackbirds in a line

Dim lanterns from each izakaya guided the way to yours
They swayed in the breeze of September
As if the heat of the summer had been a dream

I knew that I was coming home

My key turned in the lock and I saw you turn and smile
Your slippers were laid out, facing forwards for me to wear
So I could slip into how we used to be

I neared the kitchen, and the scent of your vegetable tempura
Swirled with the steam from the rice cooker
Your blue apron was stained with greasy handprints

I knew that I was coming home

I went upstairs to change, into the yukata you laid out for me
Creaseless and clean, I brushed my hair and washed my face
When I came downstairs you had made hojicha tea

I raised the china cup to my lips and scalded them
The leaves danced in the ceramic, drifting towards me

And when your hand touched my cheek and you whispered okaerinasai
My face was awash with tears:

I knew that I was coming home

 
 

Tamiko Dooley

About Tamiko Dooley

Tamiko Dooley read Latin and French at New College, Oxford. Since 2021, she has had over 40 poems published in various journals. She was the winner of the BBC Radio 3 carol competition 2021. Her debut pamphlet is due to be published by Broken Sleep Books in April 2023.