Winner of the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award for Excellence in Literature
Juliet S. Kono's second book, Tsunami Years, packs an unexpectedly hard poetic punch. From the first section, which grips you in the hilariously poignant caring for a mother-in-law with Alzheimer's Disease, to the ending section where another kind of madness drives a son over the edge, you will feel the rush of emotional waves that more than matches the real tsunami poems in between. This is a book for real people to read.
Late Praise by Juliet S. Kono
Japanese fathers give praise
thin as toothpicks, limp as saimin noodles, rough as bone meal.
My father couldn't say anything nice.
He'd rather jump off Honoli'i Pali.
Just not his style. His style? Attack the head.
He called me "stupid," "dumb," "bakatare."
And best to do this in front of people,
to make shame,
break the proud daughter bone
that straightened the back
and hauled the immovable
will of the mouth. And it's the mouth,
after all, he just had to get to--
like mud wasps on the housewalls
It was too smart for its own good,
that ugly sphinctered mouth.
It got his goat, cut his bait and hurled its turd
like no Japanese girl should.
He knuckled the head,
connected to the angry face
and the O ring of the mouth that was ready to snap--
mean with the teeth of disappointment.
There was always the taste of something bitter,
like melons and medicine,
year after year.
Now, my father's old.
He cups his ears to hear,
pees with bad aim and walks with a cane.
In his wallet he keeps a yellowed newspaper clipping of me.
Wrapped in Saran Wrap,
it looks like an old Shinto talisman.
He shows it to his friends.
"Das my daughta," he says,
rapping the picture with a knuckle.