Fall 2011

Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 3


Poetry    Fiction    Translations     Reviews

Alice Folkart



Worst Job in the World

Outside the Ginza exit of Shimbashi station
with maybe a thousand dark-suited, briefcase-carrying men
rushing in and out every minute and a half
stands a wholesomely pretty young girl in a bright-blue logo coat,
big Japanese characters in white across her back.
She holds a banner on a six-foot tall pole in one hand and with the other
offers something, flyers or maybe a brochure, to anyone who will take one.
She is well-rehearsed, takes one step forward and holds out her right hand,
she bows, casts down her eyes, and her lips move in some ultra-polite greeting.
But no one hears, no one looks at her, they don`t even go to the trouble
of ignoring her, she is invisible, and the crowd parts around her,
like an angry river dealing with a dead thing caught on a stone.

I`m waiting for a friend, watching the crowd for her face,
watching this pretty girl with the worst job in the world,
watching her repeat her offer, her bow, her obeisance, her plea,
wondering if she is thinking, It`s only a job, it`s only a job,
only four more hours to go, and then tea and a cookie, only four, and then home.
She perseveres, like a wind-up doll, step forward, bow, offer, and stop.
I consider joining the crowd passing her and stopping to take whatever she is offering,
and then think better of it, language difficulty and all, and curb my compassion,
besides, just then, Takako arrives and gaily calls out, "Where shall we go to dinner?"



Jishin -- Earthquake

JiShin -- earthquake
in the middle of a very good pizza
takes breath and appetite away

The ladies who lunch
looked up in mid bite
as hanging lamps began to sway

Hubbub stilled
eyes grew round and scared
the room swayed to the Muzak

I put down my fork and counted,
past 60, past 100,
as we looped back and forth

Tables emptied
five-thousand Yen notes hurriedly
tossed on the table as guests fled

I am still counting,
three hundred, four, boat is rocking
I look around for shelter.

Finally it slows, and almost stops,
only to start again,
I pay my bill and run down 7 flights

Stairwells, they say,
are stronger, hold out longer,
but out on the street, I look up.

Welcome to Tokyo

( 5,000 Yen notes are about $45.)




Traveling around Tokyo and environs throws one into the 'deep end' of the pool of masses of
humanity. Not even New York compares. Learning to 'swim' in this requires mental and emotional
'diving equipment.'

People, bodies,
stacked, packed
jammed into this city

Efface yourself
to create yourself,
all else is madness

Frantic music plays
on the station platform
reminding people to hurry

The colony, the hive, is all.
Together we are one,
avoiding eye contact

Insanity here
would be to believe
that everyone is real

Are there enough souls
in the universe
to fill all these bodies?


© Alice Folkart


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