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Butsuma by Bern Mulvey

Butsuma

by Bern Mulvey

(published in his 2008 book, The Fat Sheep Everyone Wants, CSU Press)


Time to meet the relatives, only they’re dead.

It’s like a WWII newsreel, all the black-and-white,

the marugari and fukurasuzume hairstyles,

the montsuki, the formal death of kimonos, even a sword


or two. Why am I here? The mother-in-law-to-be

narrates causes of death. This one, stomach cancer,

that one, cerebral hemmorrhage. She fast-forwards

to her brother, machine-gunned then left in a ditch to die.


By Americans, she says. I look up at his picture,

more handsome than I’ll ever be, a dark haired

Emilio Estevez—this was no monster

I am being told. She wants an explanation,


they all do—I know it’s trite, but I feel them,

all 20 or so, they want an apology. And I can’t do it,

and I can’t explain, not here, not before the dead,

how I have my own dead, my great-uncle sodomized


by bayonet until he too died in a place called Bataan.

Senso wa hidoi koto da—War is a horrible thing.

I say this, and she starts to cry. After a while,

she says to me, We will need your picture too,


just in case.




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So few words say so much.


Thank you for sharing this.


E Frost

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