For a Catfish (after Fukushima)
I am become Death,
The shatterer of worlds.
—J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings
It was Namazu,
legend says, caused the quake.
He drifted off one night as always,
snug under blanket-layers of mud,
smell of seaweed lulling him to sleep,
fatigue's lead-weight pushing on his back,
Nippon still resting safe along his spine.
Then his dreams
took a nightmare turn.
He watched his whiskers fall
onto a barbershop floor,
felt nets descending for the catch,
heard sesame oil sizzling on a fire,
glimpsed diners ready to eat him, bones and all.
When the terror-shivers started,
his body convulsed in one long shudder,
tipping the island off his back and raising
a monster wave to rush hell-bent toward shore.
O woe, everything's shattered.
Now not even the god Kashima can calm him.
He's inconsolable, sobbing like a child,
aftershocks shaking him once more,
as in dream-vision he sees himself again:
clean-shaven, ugly as a big, treeless mountain,
unfit to carry Japan's brittle beauty so close—
blue pines and porcelain moon.