Feature: Kimiko Hahn

In Our Living Room
after Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room”

The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.

Mother was always with the baby
or father in another room. Tonight
under the windows’ dark winter,
we were two sitting alone
on the sofa, spot lit in a circle
from an overhead. Here
another, and another

of her words sounded like
Maui Auntie’s black beach
or clammy cave.
I looked at Mother’s red lips.
This time her words weren’t
telling me to behave:
beneath a big black wave,

she kept talking about blood
until little black dots
floated around like dust blinding
my eight-year-old face.
Blood will gush down
my legs one day. I was sliding
and too hot. It was sliding–

the room. I didn’t want blood
without wound or warning to gush.
But there was no flight
from the waves in her voice
in that room in my life.
For once, I hoped she wasn’t right.
The waiting room was bright

Organized Decay
after Emily Dickinson’s #1010

Crumbling is not an instant’s Act
A fundamental pause
Dilapidation’s processes
Are organized Decays–

The hoarder’s house is also home
to sad circulars, abject mites,
as well as beatific bird tracks.
The hoarder is father to daughters
and a trove of rubble:
mother’s brush, paint brush, plastic sacks.
Crumbling is not an instant’s Act.

It’s true, too, that Ruin is formal
a dart, a shadow
on the dining table gnaws
at candles and place mats.
Meanwhile, he aims to save something–
what? a childhood noise?
A fundamental pause

with his weekend papa, his
weakened memory over a century
because Ruin is Father, yes?
And can a son father a home into being,
from cement, planks, nails, bricks,
panes of glass? An address?
Still, Dilapidation’s processes

can be a child’s blessing if
the disrepaired or wreckage
answers the child’s entreaties.
I am casting the dead.
I am the daughter who does not settle.
The hundred hotel ashtrays
Are organized Decays

Kimiko Hahn on Craft

For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been talking back to writers. Whether Luce Irigaray (Sexes and Genealogies) or Murasaki Shikibu (The Tale of Genji), I quote, take issue, imitate, honor. I am inspired by poets like Princess Shikishi (String of Beads, trans. Hiroaki Sato). When she alludes to an Imperial poem, her tanka soars out of its thirty-one-syllable orbit. I want to do that. How? For one, association, direct or indirect allusion and word play mess with denotation. And so does talking back.

In the last few years, I’ve been drawn to received forms such as the pantoum and sestina. I tried my hand at the golden shovel then searched for similar forms that refer to other writers’ works. Thanks to search engines, I “discovered” the glosa.

This Spanish form opens with another poet’s lines (this quote is called the cabeza, “head”), a kind of integrated epigraph. The theme is set by this “gloss.” Each stanza ends with a successive borrowed line. The number of lines for the cabeza and therefore the number of stanzas vary according to definition. Several note an involved rhyme pattern. The first ones I read presented ten-lined stanzas. I found my way to shorter versions.

I am not sure how my glosa will be viewed. I can’t tell if they remain exercises. But I do know that I love communing with Elizabeth Bishop and Emily Dickinson. This is as close as I get to making love with their poems. We’re all wearing silk.


“On a road in upstate New York, I discovered marks that were evidence of repairs and in certain lights they morphed into clear images, as though unconsciously the workers were making artistic interventions in the world.”


"Your friend has entered the tribe / of those who’ve buried their mothers"

Cartographies of Heartache

I have been visiting prisons as long as I can remember and have lost count of the number of times my picture may have been taped to the wall of a cell.