Thank you for dropping in.
What an amazing thing it is, that I can talk to you, and to myself, like this!
Well, welcome to you – and to me, this being my first blog.
I thought it’d be interesting – for me anyway – each month to print out a poem of mine, and to review it; to gather a few of my thoughts and perhaps gather some of yours?
I’d love to hear what you think.
Here’s a poem which I’m fond of.
Does everyone have favourite poems of their own – I mean, that they’ve written?
Of course, an acceptance by a magazine, a placing in a competition, commendation, short or long listing – any sort of mention in despatches – has to generate a warm feeling about that particular piece.
Which is what happened here.
But sometimes – even when, to tell the truth, it’s not what I’d think is one of my best – I just feel warm towards it. Maybe if this one hadn’t done very well in the big wide world, I’d still be fond of it.
Why might that be?
Well, I love dogs – their ability to offer companionship, their living in the present, unconcerned with the past and what’s yet to come, their honesty and transparency, their response to love. And one little puppy plays as large a part in this poem as all the various people – the group of school girls, the innumerable seamstresses, the other pilots and the whole unmentioned military hierarchy.
Sometimes it’s like that: one small apparent insignificance determines the outcome.
And there’s something too about inevitability, about how once a path is chosen and taken, things just have to follow.
So it’s strange, but I can sort of imagine being Yukio; doing that extraordinary thing without feeling at all heroic, and not actually thinking about the effects of the action on others, but doing it just because you have to, as it’s expected of you and you said you would. Definitely not being brave, or particularly loyal, patriotic or devoted to a cause.
Just a late teenager, observing a rite of passage into a weird, unreal and in the event never-to-be-achieved manhood.
And of course, poor US sailors. But Yukio (and I) never really thought much about them.
I wrote the poem after splashing around on the net and coming across a photo of the little group of pilots, complete with puppy. There they were, waiting for what tomorrow might bring. And there they still are, in black and white, still waiting – unlike the unseen school girls, who dropped their branches and went back into the class room.
I hope the poem has something to say to you.
Corporal Yukio Araki, age 17
of the 72nd Shinbu Squadron, 27th May 1945
The school girls wave their cherry blossom branches
then he flies south towards Mount Kaimon,
wearing the Rising Sun, his waist hemmed in
by a thousand single stitches.
Yukio remembers the flop-eared puppy
passed between them the night before –
his life ahead – and those branches that waved
between girls, releasing their fragrance.
There is the spirit: there in the passage and passing
from one to another – each girl with her branch,
and of one little dog who is scented by milk
with no fears of his own, yet
shifting his weight to balance himself.
Yukio flies on. He must aim for the middle –
the gap between gunwale and waterline –
while bearing the Rising Sun.
Each stitch disappears before it emerges.
The school girls have gone back indoors.
Some other pilot will steady the bowl
which whitens the tips of a puppy dog’s ears.
Yukio has said goodbye to the mountain.
The gap narrows. As he draws close
He’s sure he sees waving again, and deep
in his throat as he cries, he tastes milk.
Kamikaze pilots wore a headband with the Rising Sun, a belt of a thousand stitches (one each from a different woman, it was said) and flew past the southernmost tip of Japan, Mount Kaimon, on their final mission.