Excerpts from Foreign Wife Elegy
Foreign Wife Elegy
My language has its own world
where he doesn’t know how to live,
but he should learn my language;
then he can call my mother to say
that I am dead. I drive too fast
and someone else drives too fast
and we crash on the icy road.
He can tell my mother
If he learns my language.
Her large yellow voice travels
and hits his body, but at least she knows
that I am dead, and if I die,
I want him to tell my mother
with his deep voice shaking.
From the tenth floor I.C.U. down
to the exit door, a nurse ran out late at night
to the local restaurant for a small container of tomato sauce,
then ran back, white air coming out of his nose like smoke.
He pushed the entrance door, leaving his fingerprints,
back in the elevator to the tenth floor,
to room #1003 for the woman without her kidneys,
liver, and half a stomach. She wanted to taste
tomato sauce one more time.
Her gray lips parted, like a pair of rusted scissors.
He fed her with his chest moving up and down, breathing fast.
His skin, iced outside, melted as if his whole body were in tears.
Jack was only five years old when his mother’s heart stopped beating. He sobbed, shook her and called her name, but when nothing awoke her, he kissed her forehead. Hours later when my husband cleaned her body, her forehead had a small wet circle. He washed her face carefully around Jack’s kiss.
New Year’s Day
On the phone,
my father’s voice
arrived a second
later like an echo.
A thin wire ran between
us. I told my father
not to move. Do not
disturb the wire
the ocean for
thousands of miles.
The distance between us
grows emptily inside me.
This terrible space is all
I have today.
This debut collection bears witness to the compassion of nurses, the hardships of injury and illness, and the solitude brought on by marrying outside one’s culture. In these quiet and deceptively simple poems, Taniguchi’s words become a haven for human frailties and peaceful reflection.