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Renga for Japan [Poem]

16 May

It was when I had
Just got home early from work,
My old man saying

Japan’s getting it I turned
Around to watch the box and

It was getting it
The pictures were live how strange
I thought watching it

Where this grey mouthed alien
Was now swallowing Japan

In real time I thought
To myself it’s like Manga
But that wasn’t smart

Or funny to say it out
Loud with no more Samurai

Boats were just too small
To resist and I thought of
All those pretty prints

That huge wave with its white curls
Striated and blue lines you know

The great Tsunami
Kanagawa, Hokusai
Such a rare view point

Not a wide mouthed Animé
Nightmare consuming

I saw the good news
A dog rescued from a roof
Radiation free

But now the days pass
Water claims a victory
Over man’s progress

I’m finding it hard to write
Or even mention the theft

Of whole villages
The thousands of lives stolen
How can I say this

Daring to whisper of those
Traces, once upon a time

There’s poison settling
But I hear its safe for now
No snow for children to play

There’s this shaded emptiness
Over the ants that scurry.

Text: © J. L. Nash, 2011

Submitted by: Jane Nash
Originally published in The Pandorian

The Roster [Poem]

15 May

Two hundred sixteen sheets
of printer paper plaster

the public gymnasium’s walls.
Some number command many

other eyes elsewhere in the shelter,
every scrap a make-shift of details

of what you cannot hold:
height weight gender hair length

last place seen last time seen
blurring in the blanks

of the roster checked
and checked and checked again.

Not to find a name is not to find nothing.

In the golden tallgrass on a hillock
outside town, soldiers prod and poke

with long, thin diviners’ rods
as snow freshens pines capped off

with fishers’ nets. They gather
and tag the morning’s remains.

Submitted by: Maureen E. Doallas
© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

Dreaming in the Field of Tohoku [Poem]

15 May

Her dream
was in the field

of water
it, too, bleached

an off-shore snow

of pearls
like beads

through sea grit

scrubbed smooth

as ice sheets
not yet

the spoils
of Tohoku


pulling up
raising a wall

of silence
glacial in attitude

the blast

meant to blind
the count

leave numbers
of bodies

a question mark.

and elsewhere

clouds mass
a white-out condition

as birds touching

or tears

masking the dazzle
of breath

giving as it’s given.

Submitted by: Maureen E. Doallas
© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

Tsunami Aftermath [Photos]

14 May

Tsunami effect









Submitted by: Douglas Wakimoto

Guilt [Essay]

12 May

The Ginza Line was pulling out of Ueno Station when the quake hit, jolting the train to a hard stop, then vibrating it like a car revving to free tyres from thick mud. For the first few moments I thought somebody must have thrown themselves under the train. Out on the platform, everything looked calm and still, and inside the train nobody seemed at all concerned.

Then the vibrating turned to violent shaking. The lights briefly flickered, and down the other end of the carriage someone screamed. The turbulence began to drain faces of colour.

I don’t remember how long it was before the announcement came from the driver. There had been a big earthquake, he said, and as the train still shock and jolted, people started reaching for cell phones. My hands were trembling and damp as I tried texting my wife. I hadn’t realized I was scared until then.

By the time the shaking had stopped and we were being led the through the puddles of water collecting on the Ginza Line platform and calmly ushered to street level, the first news was coming in. The epicenter was up in Tohoku. And it was big. I heard someone walking next to me say “Shindo 7” into his cell phone, with rising intonation that bordered on disbelief. I feel a sense of guilt thinking of it now, but I felt relieved when I knew it wasn’t our “big one”; that it was happening to Tohoku, not us. I guess that’s human nature. I hope it’s not just mine.

Out on the streets of Ueno I walked around aimlessly until I received a text back from my wife to say she and our son were safe, and with that all worry was purged by an enormous sense of elation. Then I stopped in front of a shop window where a small crowd was watching NHK.

There was no sound coming from the TV, just images of a dark liquid mass flowing steadily inland in Sendai, claiming everything it met. In one corner of the screen a map showed flashing tsunami warnings almost encircling the country. At one point a woman watching next to me wiped a tear from her cheek. I’d never seen a Japanese cry in the street until Ueno on 3/11. That’s when I began to realize what had happened up north. Everything had changed for them. Maybe that’s when the guilt started.

Submitted by: Rob Goss

Belief [Art]

3 May

A local artist organized a show for here in Boston on May 6. I was inspired to prepare the attached work with the proceeds of the sale to go to the victims.
The session was a wonderful experience for me and the model, Mihoko Hakata.

Submitted by: Bill Downey

The Shimmer of the Sword [Poem and Art]

28 Apr

The shimmer of the sword

There settles a silence and a whispering breeze

The hairs upon the arms stand tall

As if antennas suddenly sensed it all

Or were the tremors that rattled within the skin of our bodies

Mixed with violent beats of the heart

Just becoming frozen in time

These photographs, only give you a tear

Whereas the fate that rests upon my family and the families of others

Encases the reality of chaos and the stench of destruction

While temperatures boil through the blazing home of our neighbors

Frustration, rippling through the earth’s mantle

Rocking the core like a mother claiming her justice

In the ocean the whirlpool’s begun the chaotic dismantling of infrastructures

From piers, through the streets, beyond the front door, ending within our soul

The blade has given an honor, moment of patience and saddened sorrow

These characters that violently inscroll upon the silky surface of our heritage

This, is a moment when anger, strength, and who you are needs to be known

Yell, yell, so all may hear

Of the shimmering blade that has struck

This blade so honorary, so noble in virtue

Accepting that what the world is witnessing

Is the purest form of human life, human life

As the shimmering of the sword settles

Submitted by: Jason Teves

Wasteland [Essay]

27 Apr

When the earthquake struck I was walking in the street near Shinjuku. I felt the difference straight away, usually you cannot feel quakes if you are outside but that day the buildings made noises that one only usually hears when inside them; the walls bulged and the windows rattled. I felt seasick and I stumbled along the pavement with the telegraph poles twirling above me and the trees dancing, their empty, spring branches whipping the air.

That something bad had happened was palpable; the fear worsened by my inability to call my family because the phones no longer worked. As aftershock on aftershock wobbled the earth for the next days the feeling that nothing good could ever happen again grew. It was hard to live that much suspended from the future, and for so long. Like the pause of the condemned on the scaffold steps, everyone I knew was waiting voicelessly for the next quake, worried that our luck was running-out and that next tectonic rumble would be the end of all our hopes against it.

The quake was a story that hit me in the face as a photographer; the sort of thing we ordinarily dream of. I was the very model of in the right place at the right time yet I didn’t ask for it and as the enormity of what had happened sunk in, I sought it even less. It was a story that I could not find in me the energy to follow at first: it was too close, too big, too many divergent emotions were calling me north and keeping me in Tokyo with my frightened family. But then the choice was taken away from me somewhat: the commission came and I found myself on a plane heading north with a journalist that was being constantly bullied, on his Blackberry, by an editor wanting in-depth misery on our whistle-stop-tour of towns and villages that lingered in our memory much longer than we lingered in their ravaged geography. It was the worse kind of parachute journalism yet I am glad I went because the overwhelming result of our visit was a new empathy for the amazing people of Tohoku and a lightening of the hellish sense of foreboding we had lived under for the week since the Earthquake struck.

In Iwate I went to places that had real problems, ones the media would exaggerate of course, but they didn’t need to. I saw things that have put all my fears in harsher perspective; things that have shown me the supreme power of nature and also the no less impressive strength of the human spirit. No hype is needed where hell exists unshielded and visceral. And yet even as I wiped the mud from my shoes at the hotel in Morioka for the first time in a week I was not scared, I was not looking for a way out and I was not worrying about gossip.

There are problems in the world don’t get me wrong, I understand that and in this part of the world especially at this moment things are more than difficult. The ground ignores us as its folds and shudders; yet we still do not respect it enough and have not heeded its warnings. Japan‘s days are numbered, for sure; but I know that number is in the billions and I need not worry too much. I have love and memories. I have almost all I need which the people of Otsuchi, Kamaishi, Kamiarakawa, Ofunato and especially Rikuzentakata, that I visited, do not.

While the journalist wrote his piece that first night I wrote a blog to reassure friends and family of my safety. I wrote because I was no longer scared and that is the emotion I wanted to share most. Fear seemed selfish and self-indulgent after I had met people who had lost everything and enjoyed their smiles and welcomes even as we intruded on their lives with our questions and lenses. When your neighbours stories are equal to or more tragic than yours, who do you share the pain with? Maybe they found it cathartic to talk to us or perhaps Tohoku people are just stronger but I saw people pick their way through wreckage that would have defeated me with it melancholy and just get on with the job of living anew.

For example I met an 80 year old woman who had survived Hiroshima and who smiled a ready “hello” to us as she walked through the rubble of Kamaishi with a purpose to her brisk pace that belied both her age and any destination she could have been going to in that smashed and empty town. She was proud and for a moment worried about being photographed with no make-up on until it struck her that she had no make-up any more. She was most proud of having saved her husband though, driving down to the seafront to pick him up as the warnings sounded, and racing the tsunami as she sped up into the hills to safety. She was a good driver she said.

I also met a man, whose wife and mother, had been swept away in the tsunami. He was searching his car when we met. The car rested at 45 degrees against the remains of a house and he was looking for the insurance documents and something, anything personal. He joked about not being able to get the money back then a friend walked past and we became unimportant. He shut the door to the car carefully as he left with his friend, locking it as if it was still parked on the road outside his now non-existent house. It was a small act of routine and normality that showed me, despite the sudden emptiness to his days, that he will recover.

My time in Iwate was a one of snow and mud, of boats in rice fields and houses in the sea. It was also a time of stoicism and carnage and yet I am proud to have lived for that brief moment among people that do not blame, do not hate, do not give up and do not stop being all that is best in this damaged world of ours. Their lives made me understand when fear is truly justified; which is why I am not scared anymore.

Submitted by: Damon Coulter

Japan in Tweets [Art]

21 Apr

I’m about to submit an assignment for Uni where I had to remediate a text. I chose the @quakebook twitter stream and as such have created a graphic with a multitude of uses and a couple of parallel meanings.

I have a deep affection for Japan, its people and culture. And as this is a matter close to my heart, thoughts and prayers, it was only obvious that I do something which may be able to be given in return and to contribute in any way to the wonderful project of the quakebook. In saying this, I am happy to submit my artwork to you also, for use and as a contribution to the project.

Submitted by: Stephanie D’Silva

Quake in Otemachi [Essay]

17 Apr

We’re used to minor earthquakes here. Happens all the time. Few people at work really paid attention when the ground started shaking this time. I was in a conference call and saw people smiling and talking unconcerned at first, until we realized the tremors were getting unusually big.

Office buildings here tend of have earthquake survival kits, containing a helmet, flashlight, and other necessities, under each desk. We all took cover under our desks, opened the kits—most of us for the first time ever—and took out the helmets. The scene looked like a drill of some kind. Our building, which is built like a tank and probably as wide and deep as it is tall, began swaying heavily, and monitors on our desks moved freely from side to side.

Everyone, except for a few battle hardened traders, left the building as soon as the first tremor abated. A second one came soon after, and cranes on top of Marunouchi’s skyscrapers swung back and forth like pendulums.

Mobile phone networks quickly broke down, unable to handle the millions of people trying to call or send messages. With no means to contact friends and family, some of us decided to leave. However, all trains had stopped, busses were either out of service or already packed with people, all taxis were immediately taken, and traffic jam was building up everywhere.

Many people, me included, decided to walk home. It was as if the whole city suddenly turned into a gigantic marathon walking course. For some people the distance was just too great, and the city offered temporary shelters in parks and arenas for those.

Aftershocks continued during the evening, night, and the following morning. Power outages in Tohoku made it difficult to reach friends and relatives others up north, and tsunami disaster reports began sharing airtime with another developing story: Malfunctioning reactors in Fukushima.

The next few days were equally surreal: Constant sound of ambulances and fire trucks rushing by, empty shelves and impossibly long lines at otherwise quiet and well stocked supermarkets, and 24 hours news frequently interrupted by early warnings about imminent aftershocks. Shock and sorrow after a natural disaster combined with an increasing fear for an unfolding man-made disaster.

Tokyo has since largely returned to business as usual. Trains are as packed as always, shops restocked, and after-work izakaya bars once again full of intoxicated salarymen sharing a few yakitori skewers before heading home. However, the wide ranging energy saving measures, from escalators taken out of service to dimly lit stores and signs, serves a reminder to us in the mostly unscathed capital of the tragedies in the Tohoku area and the work ahead.

Submitted by: Jacob Ehnmark.