Slow Train To Ikeda
Below is this year’s Grade 11 winner of the Serup Poetry Competition.
I am on a slow train to Ikeda —
a town in western Japan
where you lived as a baby
when you had curly chestnut hair.
I met you years ago
when I lived in a world of
white houses with white fences
fish and chips on grass
pumpkin spiced scones
and my father’s grey eyes
the kind of eyes that I never had.
My father left me before I could spell
but I grew up writing poems about him,
each word paying for each strand of chromosome
he had left at my doorstep.
But he is not here,
I'm on a slow train to Ikeda
the seats in this train are spinach green.
Outside, people are cooking rice in their miniature houses
steam rising up chimneys, tinting the clouds hues of orange
cracking up a little entrance to heaven
It's a quiet town
all the sounds in the world drained
from the underground pipes.
People living monotonous lives
washing the rice,
once, twice, three times
As I sit here, on a seat
as green as traffic lights
I try to hear your voice
and feel the soft fuzz of your hair.
The present feels so alive
the tangibility of it might leak
and flood the carriages of this train.
If you were here right now
you would ask me,
"Do you still write?"
I would say,
"The new criteria is too hard.
I don't tick those boxes anymore."
You would then say something along the lines of
"You tick 'em boxes that others don't."
But you are not here,
I am on a slow train to Ikeda.
Out of all these blue-roofed houses,
which one did you live in?
Your Norwegian mother, who moved here
with your Japanese father:
did she miss
the opposite shore of the Pacific?
Maybe you too,
are on a slow train to Ikeda
one that departed
three minutes before mine
Maybe my father is waiting
at the terminal station.
He couldn't find me all these years
because he was cursed — stuck in a loop of time.
Standing with the rice-cooking villagers,
on the bleaker end of love,
he waves at me
his hair looking as grey as his eyes.
Grace L, Allard ‘19