Three Poems — Kou Sugita


The deserted playground when I was six was only
phantom feeling. You & your friends swarmed like
white pigeons scavenging for bread. A passerby told
me if I ate white bread, I would be consuming
oppression. I sat seiza on the grass waiting for you
staring as vivid growth rings formed in the stars. I
thought while waiting, whether or not an empire
expands through an exit wound from your stomach &
then continues, & I knew then I’ve eaten Wonder
Bread, so it seemed grounded till now. Fifteen years
late our bodies lay on the same grass speaking in
tangerine tongue. You wore this not so beautiful
confidence, you talked & talked in my ethnic studies
classes, faculty meetings, coffee places, here & there.
This is what it means to stay here—you would say
something romantic:

:I am your river, you are my ocean, there is nothing that can stand between us

:land, time can come between us

The stars I gazed at laying on the roundabout last night were still colorless. I don’t feel an expanding empire in me, though I’m often lonely.

Here’s your token

The hammock lies with me tonight, comforting. It spoons me like an ocean does a drowning boy. I lay, an orange tree breeze across the Inland Empire turning over a musky green storm into the tunnel of my nose. Some days I just don’t like to burn a chaotic wind against me. This green wind become a wind of gold, the castle gold, gold, the people too, gold, all of it. The admissions officer gave me a silver hat to wear. I dream of metaphorical missiles. The kinds that are like the end of the world & not really beautiful. At least there’s nothing left, nothing—wake me when roses char. Ashing petal drifting into my hot sauna godforsaken skull. Yes, a bowl of rice—that’s it—I wake, find a token & give it to the admissions officer, brittle my bone, stomach fleshy, full of rice.

I meet this older man

on the commuter train. His eyes, lamps. Smooth yolk seeping through the crack of eyelid. My eye vessel across, about to burst in light: I stare.

Not going anywhere—myself & maybe him too. No job, failing college, a politics degree. A high performance car for sale I see out in the wasteland passing by. If I had the money for it, the world still wouldn’t know how to make an escape with it. But I’m not escaping or anything like that. Just the desert dusting the panel of windows. Our lives traveling to Union Station, packed inside our backpacks & plastic bags. I think of how this moving house will take us to a garden bench where God is scheduled to give a commencement speech for us.

His shirt reads old dudes rock! His tall boy rolling a tear down his stomach face. I sit, a wonder over me—has this man accepted that he will not meet anyone today & for days that follow? At this garden & bench we seemingly travel to? But, again, not escaping or anything like that. Just a fairy’s spirit living inside my ear; banshee. Just one silent breath disembodied. Just my grandfather’s heavy ghost embodying my mother. Just where do we place ourselves, mother? Just where is home now in this vast world of space limited?

I’m homeless he says. I’m lost too.

Kou Sugita lives in Los Angeles, CA and was born in Sapporo, Japan. A former assistant editor at the Hiram Poetry Review, his writing has appeared or is forthcoming in AAWW’s The Margins, Ofi Press, Eunoia Review, Zoomoozophone Review, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for Best of the Net and is also a recipient of a Vachel Lindsay Prize for Poetry from Hiram College. Sugita is currently a senior at Pitzer College.