…today’s crisis is one of unconscious feeling of ultranationalism in
Japan. A very big feeling…
—Ōe Kenzaburō (Nobel Laureate, 1994)
What’s going to happen to Ōe Kenzaburō now,
with grandsons of the war crying banzai
again, calling justice masochism?
Did you hear the news?
They’re saying Nanking is a lie.
the women wanted comfort,
In someone’s idea of a world, maybe.
A world free of mirrors
like the one Ōe hoards in his pocket
against the possibility
a feeble general might be having second thoughts,
might dare his reflection. Remember
our last getting-to-know-you potluck?
How determined we were to gather
nations in our kitchen?
Remember our guest shouting
girl you don’t know anything they don’t teach you
anything your grandfathers destroyed our country raped
Remember how you and the girl sat across the table,
sharing the spittle of the woman’s words?
How she went on.
Until all that remained was to cradle the girl
in the nursery, crooning
all the pretty little horses as if
I might mother the war away.
The tears in the girl’s eyes.
Her obedient body.
Questions and Answers
What inspired “Potluck”?
At the time of the poem, some of the ambiguities in my life were getting me down, especially in relation to the Second World War and how history is written. I was reading stuff by and about the novelist mentioned in the epigraph. We were having a lot of potlucks; one played out pretty much like the one in the poem.