Tsunami Journal Excerpt by Scott Watson

SCOTT WATSON has been writing from Japan in the aftermath. Here is a small section. You can find it all at the wonderful blog–Issa’s Untidy Hut – The Lilliput Review Blog

Morie and I want to walk around and see what shopping can be
done. Wait till rain stops, which it does after lunch. We are
fascinated to see around the corner a line of cars stretching way
up the hill from our neighborhood.  All waiting to pump gas down
at a  station on the highway. Morie says we should get in line. Not
me, baby. Iʼm a walkinʼ man. Though I may be walking to death
if my Korean friend is right that radiation might come to Miyagi.
Walking is the only way we could try to escape. Wind blows
faster than we can walk.

Are we supposed to stay inside? We find a little grocer inside a
tiny plaza.  No one is lined up there. No junk food is for sale. They
have fruit that looks like an orange but isnʼt. They have fresh
vegetables: spinach, lettuce, bell peppers, and ones I forget the
English name for. The sell beans too: adzuki and soy.

Why are there no lines here? Why are there lines at places like
Seiyu, which is owned by Walmart? Mysteries, mysteries.

We feel lucky to know of this shop. We feel lucky too that we
havenʼt had to spend half our days lined up for things. On the way
here we meet a neighbor on her way home from a big super-
market.  She says she waited 3 hours to get her little bag of items.
Mostly instant food products.

Back home our home phone rings. First time since the quake.
Itʼs startling!  What should be done? Answer it? Will it explode?
Itʼs Ishida, a colleague from my university. Kindly asking for us.
Heʼs okay too. Lives alone downtown. A sweet, offbeat sort of
guy. Teaches himself to play medieval European instruments.

Good news, the best news of this day, is that my students, the
ones who live by the sea, are all okay. Miraculous!

For more information about Lilliput:

Don Wentworth, Editor
Lilliput Review
282 Main Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Homepage: http://sites.google.com/site/lilliputreview/
Email: lilliputreview@gmail.com

Visit to Chimayo

It was a beautiful afternoon in Chimayo. The globe willows were turning green in the valley. Ana invited me to go, and we talked and talked, as old friends will. The plaza area around and behind Sanctuario has been developed–in a nice way–since I was last there…probably to accommodate more and more pilgrims. There were cows in a green field. We bought candles at the gift shop, and little boxes for the healing dirt. Ana says the lovely peaceful feeling comes from the intention of so many people. Lit the candles in the church. Put the dirt on what ails us. Ate delicious chicken and green chile tamales from Leona’s and sat in the sun still talking and drinking diet Coke.
There was an amazing large carved wooden santo–St. Francis facing Dona Sebastian in her death cart–and a motto in Spanish, loosely translated as “it is joyful to die knowing you have caused harm neither to others nor to yourself.”
Ana and I agreed that this seemed universal–useful. After all, we can’t always see what it means to do “good.” This is like the ancient Greek Hippocratic oath.
We thought about Mexico and the churches we’d been in together–Our Lady of Guadalupe in Morelia as baroque and golden as a Faberge egg–and with incredible murals of Aztec sacrifices. Drove home and then sat in my driveway–still talking.

By seeming coincidence, I’ve been holding on to this spectacular photograph by MARCUS CARILLO ( For more beautiful work go to http://essenceofumbra.wordpress.com). So now was obviously the time to post it.

Interview with Renny Golden


1. What is you personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.

2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?

3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

In the 1980s I spent time in and out of El Salvador during the war years.  As a result, my aesthetic and point of view was transformed by campesinos who were linguistically illiterate, but who were, collectively and individually, brilliantly conversant with the body in pain…and with the collective body, el pueblo’s, desire for liberation from pain.  So yes, I write about the body which carries the inscriptions of colonialism, of being targeted, of being discarded.  My own well fed body suffers, too.  But not torture, not the price Egyptian bodies currently bear in order to resist despotism.  In many ways, the Salvadorans first taught me about the body and trauma.  I had not reflected, until you asked, about my sense of the body in relation to my writing.

I don’t know if I’m twisting your question about what I dislike about being a poet to complain about my relationship to the “new” post modern poetic aesthetic, and thus dodging my own struggle to stay true to my voice & vision but…here goes.  Mostly I feel anachronistic in the poetry world which is to say I recognize the way in which the poem (language) itself is embedded with power and is an event in itself but I agree with Hannah Arendt that a poem is not an action rather only action by people confronts unjust power & creates a less violent world.  Thus I’m not drawn to poems which attempt to reflect the chaotic, fractured culture and which leave the reader (except for the MFA community) confused or dismissive or bored.  I’d rather risk the inelegance of subtle moral talk.  Which is endorsed, if you are Adrienne Rich and others who have won, by their achievements and fame, the “right” to such language.  This does not mean I achieve this or anything near the Muriel Rukeyser or Milocz or Martin Espada poetic voice and vision, only that I can’t catch the current minamalist train because it doesn’t seem to know (or care) where it’s heading…the journey is the event.  All this shapes my writing because I want the audience to be ordinary people but in order to be published their are conductors who have to let you on the train & I don’t think I want the ticket even if it were offered.

I’ve attached a poem from my book Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880

Canyon de Chelly, 1864

I was stone, will be stone
                Joy Harjo from “House”

Snow carpets a sandstone table rising one
thousand feet from the canyon floor.  From there
Navajos watch specks below, Bluecoats, small
as toy soldiers, their miniature horses halt before

the canyon’s mouth. Three hundred hollow-eyed
Navajo, Diné, have climbed sacred cliff rock, elders
pulled up, wisps of their silver hair, tiny wings.  Cold stings
eyes, their hands like bruised apples where they grip

rock-holds cut by young men strapped with pouches
of berries, mutton, nuts.  Muscled boys who rise like
angels to the house of sky, then run down hidden
stairs to carry up infants.  Safe on Forest Rock, soaring

in clouds, great mother turtle carrying a nation on
her shell.  The Diné walk on her frozen back reverent
as monks, chant to her, to the gods who wait there. Snow
floats over pinón, spruce.  Colonel Kit Carson’s dragoons

wait below, their horses paw muffs of feathered snow.
Carson edges forward, reins in.  His uniform jacket
is powdered.  Carson is not a West Pointer, cannot read
his written orders.  Beaver, bears, wolves taught him

languages General Carleton will never understand.
Navajos taught him silence, how to read clouds. He will
not enter the canyon blurred white, piling, flake by
flake in grief.  Some sadness, like a child’s

cry or a whimpering cub, pulls him back. What presence
inhabits this gash of rock gorge? Carson believes in
horses, mountain lions, in keeping his word, he promises
General Carleton: All that is connected with

this canyon will cease to be a mystery. He has orders to
kill Diné who refuse to be saved.  Months of pursuit
brought him to this snow-whipped doorway facing
peach orchards hushing the canyon floor, their snow-laced,

branches raised heavenward. Loyal as a dog, Carson
flings orders against destiny’s door: starve or submit.  All
summer he burned their cornfields, left livestock carcasses
rotting in pastures.  A stink followed him here.  His men can

wait until these cold stones give up ghosts or angels.  Did Carson
see what he had done when sixty starving Navajos stumbled
down, gaunt acrobats with trembling hands? The skeletal Diné
surrender.  The mercy of peach trees surrounds them. 


Carson’s commission ends there in a shudder of light knifing
open the grey snow where Diné wait, last desert riders too
weak to carry frostbitten comrades on the Long March to
Redondo Bosque, the merciful reservation experiment of

General Carleton.  A procession of Navajos follows pony
soldiers, buckboards carrying grandmothers, the sick who slip
off to the spirit world in the hearse wagons rocking them away
from the land of their ancestors.  Diné trudge a path that

America will leave to overgrowth: buckeye trees, blue-silver
salt brush that endures poker-hot sun.  What gulag
has flowers, fruits, prisoners who will not beg, whose
shamans carry burnt coals incendiary as a prophecy?  Spare

them the plans of white men: Carleton to redeem children from
the sin of wildness; Carson, lovable Indian fighter, orders
blankets, mutton for the first frail prisoners of war that walk
the canyon floor past doomed orchards. Then Carson

points upward to two hundred shivering hold-outs,
unstraps his axe, and cuts the throat of the first of three
thousand peach trees that fed the Diné.  Reports of axe cracks
echo up like cries. Kit Carson, literate in indigenous culture,

has kept his vow. 
Bio for Renny Golden

Renny Golden’s book of poetry The Hour of the Furnaces was nominated for a National Book Award in 2000.  Her poetry book Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880 was published by the University of New Mexico Press in December 2010.  Her book of poems Benedicite was a White Pine Press Finalist in 2010. Her most recent book War on the Family: Imprisoned Mothers and the Families They Leave Behind, (NY: Routledge), 2005, was a Finalist for the C Wright Mills Award.
Poetry Published in: International Quarterly; The American Voice; Literary Review; Americas Review; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review; Explorations, University of Alaska; Wisconsin Review; Dogwood; West End; & Calyx.