Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Batan Kyuu"

This poem is spillover from the October 4, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] johnpalmer and Shirley Barrette. It also fills the "loss of identity" square in my 7-16-16 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Batan Kyuu"

After the whaling trial in the Maldives,
Daichi Hayashi returned to Japan in disgrace
along with most of his former shipmates.

Banished from the sea, they were sent
inland to Biei. It was not a terrible place to live --
the rolling fields made a beautiful view, if you
liked looking at lots of dirt -- but Daichi
missed sailing with all his heart.

He was fortunate enough to get
a job on one of the many farms, where
he learned to work the fields instead of
hunting for whales on the waves.

It could have been worse.

Daichi could have wound up jobless
and homeless like Shiro Watanabe, who
failed to recover from their shared hardships.

Their captain, Yoshiro Maru, had somehow
obtained a position in business, but the stress
drove him to drink. He passed out drunk on
the commute home about three nights out of
five, so that giggling teenagers took snapshots
of him sprawled across the seats to post online.

Even on the farm, Daichi reminded himself
of his few but real remaining fortunes. His body
stayed strong, so he didn't need an exoskeleton
like his coworker Noboru Goto, who had suffered
an accident with agrochemicals that left him
with permanent muscle weakness.

No matter how hard he tried to focus
on what he had, though, Daichi could not
escape what he had lost. He missed the sea
with the utter finality of a man who knows
that he can never go home again.

He took up hiking and flower arranging,
but they could not compensate
for the lack of swimming.

He draped his walls with fishing nets,
collected blown-glass floats and hung them
from the bamboo rafters of his porch.

Over his bed he positioned a large print of
Kanagawa-oki nami ura, but it was not enough.

Nothing would ever make up for what
he had loved and lost, and it was this which,
in the end, enlightened him to the evil he had done.

They had killed and eaten people,
and that was a terrible thing indeed.

In the months after the trial, Daichi had
slept well enough despite his memories of
the great whales' power rolling over his mind
like a wave overtaking a sabani.

Now, he could hardly lie down and
close his eyes before the nightmares began.
Even afternoon sunshine through his eyelids
made the reddened light remind him of blood,
and at night, the pale moon haunted him with
memories of slicing blubber into slabs.

When Daichi went shopping,
he walked past Shiro squatting in
an abandoned storefront, and he saw
the rude pictures of their former captain.

Perhaps they deserved what had happened to them,
for what they had done to innocent others.

So Daichi began to cultivate acceptance,
as he had learned to cultivate radishes.

He sat zazen and meditated, even though
he was not very good at it, and he did this
in the fields or in the forests despite
finding such places oppressive.

He hiked longer and harder,
studied more challenging types of
flower arranging, and gave away
his last swimsuit to a poor boy who
had none to wear during gym class.

He replaced Kanagawa-oki nami ura
with a print of Tōto sundai, and in place of
the fishing floats he hung paper lanterns.

He was no longer a whaler;
he was no longer a sailor;
he had nothing to do with
the sea forevermore.

The loss of identity hurt, like
the socket left behind a lost tooth.

It was sad, but it was justice.

Daichi knew that he could never
make up for what he had done, but
he could at least bear the punishment
with some semblance of honor, and let
that be a lesson for others to do better.

He did not even notice the wisdom
trickling into him like tea in an empty cup.

* * *


Daichi Hayashi -- He has golden skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He has just a fringe of mustache and beard, already white. Originally he came from the island of Iejima, where his father was a traditional boat builder. Daichi used to work as a whaler, but ran afoul of Steel in the Maldives. After the trial, he was banished from the sea and sent inland to live in Biei. There he became a farmer and took up hobbies that include hiking and flower arranging.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Hard Worker, Good (+2) Flower Arranging, Good (+2) Mental Fortitude, Good (+2) Hiker
Poor (-2) Former Whaler

Shiro Watanabe -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and wavy black hair. His scruffy beard and mustache are going gray. Shiro used to work as a whaler, but ran afoul of Steel in the Maldives. After the trial, he was banished from the sea and sent inland to live in Biei. Unable to find work, he wound up homeless, squatting in an abandoned storefront and begging to survive.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Obedient, Good (+2) Sailor, Good (+2) Swimmer
Poor (-2) Disgrace to Japan

Noboru Goto -- He has tawny skin, brown eyes, and black hair to his collar. An accident with agrochemicals left him with weak muscles. He wears an exoskeleton so that he can still work. He sings traditional Japanese songs, which makes him popular in the local community.
Qualities: Good (+2) Dutiful, Good (+2) Farmer, Good (+2) Local Fame, Good (+2) Planning Ahead, Good (+2) Singer
Poor (-2) Muscle Damage

Yoshiro Maru -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and short black hair. He used to captain a whaling ship, but ran afoul of Steel in the Maldives. After the trial, he was banished from the sea and sent inland to live in Biei. There he became a businessman and a drunk. Not just the occasional weekend binge, but passing out drunk on the commute home three nights out of five.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Sailor, Good (+2) Confident, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Willpower
Poor (-2) Drunk, Poor (-2) Disgrace to Japan

* * *

Batan kyuu means "manner of falling down violently and the stillness that follows."
-- 11 Beautiful Untranslatable Japanese Words

, Hokkaido, Japan appears on this map.

Loss of identity can trigger an identity crisis. Clinging to the past is unhealthy. Understand how to let go of the past and practice non-attachment.

Daichi's fishing floats look like this.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa-oki nami ura) is a picture from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) by Katsushika Hokusai.

Surugadai in Edo (東都駿台 Tōto sundai) is another picture from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) by Katsushika Hokusai.

A sabani is a small fishing boat of Iejima.

Japanese paper lanterns appear in homes and gardens.

The wisdom of the empty mind is an important feature of Zen Buddhism. It often bases metaphors on teacups: you cannot pour more into a full cup, but neither can you pour from an empty one. You must learn how to let go of things you no longer need, in order to open yourself to new experiences.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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