Martha Rhodes


Poems By Hiromi Ito

Marjoram, Dill, Rosemary

Father's Uterus, Or The Map

The Maltreatment of Meaning






Father's Uterus, Or The Map

In that room various body parts
Are stuffed into various bottles
We saw various deformities, various strange diseases
We could have seen various dead bodies but
The men didn't want to go there
That's why all I saw were parts of bodies
Body parts that had changed color in the liquid
No chance
Of them coming back to life

Look, that's my father's arm
The men said pointing to an arm all dried up
That's my father's skin
The men pointed to a patch of skin ridden with disease
That's my father's stomach
The men pointed to a stomach with ulcers
Those are my father's testicles
The men pointed to testicles with elephantiasis
Those are my father's bones and spinal column
Those are my father's joints
Those are us, the children our father gave birth to
The men pointed to fetuses with hydrocephalus
And that is you
The men pointed to a breast with cancer
And that is my father's uterus
The men pointed to a uterus that had grown teeth
There were a row of teeth pushing the flesh aside
I wanted to say
This is a disease, a deformity
But I did not
That is my father's uterus
When we were boys, our father often thrashed us
Those are the cruel uterine teeth that punished us
One began to sob
Another began to dance
Meanwhile the boys suddenly broke the bottle
With the uterus with the teeth
Regardless of whether it was their father's or anyone else's
Regardless of whether it was the result of disease or deformity
The bottle broke
Tears and medicinal fluid
Teeth and glass shards
I thought
These actions are merely maudlin
But I did not say anything
"When I open the map and think about where I want to go
There is my father, standing everywhere on the map
I become desperate to find someplace he's not
My father stands everywhere
My father stands everywhere on the map, I point and he's there"
I am telling this story I heard somewhere of father and daughter
When one of the men gives me a map
A map marked in a foreign language
I know the contours of the land
I know the names of places too but
I can't read the language
The men can read it however
So whenever I look at the map
That language
The men who read that language
Watch me with tactful eyes

Of course the man who gave me the map
And immediately started to stand watch
Regretted his actions
He writhed with regret
Be quiet (I wished)
Drop dead (I wished)
He should die the dullest death imaginable
Dashing chewed gum to the floor or
Disappearing suddenly in a burst of wind or
Starving to death or something
Still the man gives me a map in order to keep watch
No matter when, no matter where, he is standing there in the map
He appears even inside the bottles, come back to life
But the man regrets
He writhes with regret
No choice but to leave him be
Call out and
Immediately he is standing there
He is going to thrash me
The man's blood vessels brim to overflowing
The same way they have dozens, hundreds of times
Father, older brother
Husband, lover, teacher, whatever I call him


Translated from the Japanese by Jeffrey Angles (Action Books, 2009)








    Poetry Center Reading:
    Fall 2010