Where the river pooled up for the boys
a stone emerged.
You didn’t see it any other way:
just a stone, big and anodyne.

When we rose up from the murky water
we’d scale it like lizards. And then
a weird thing happened:
the dry mud on our skin
drew our bodies closer to the landscape:
the landscape was the mud.
At that moment
the stone wasn’t hard or impermeable:
it was the back of a great mother
lying in wait for shrimp in the river. Ah, poet
yet again the temptation
of a useless metaphor. The stone
was stone
and that was enough. There was no mother. And I know now
it assumes responsibility: to watch over us
in its impenetrable intimacy.

My mother, however, has died
and she is neglected by us.

Photo: Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Jose Watanabe

The limpid and illusory simplicity of José Watanabe (1946-2007), one of Peru's most revered poets, quietly pervades the poet's seven original volumes of poetry. An author of children’s books and adaptive screenplays, Watanabe is also a contributor to La memoria del ojo: cien años de presencia japonesa en el Perú (Memory of the Eye: A Hundred Years of Japanese Presence in Peru, 1999), a “photographic history” that attests to the World War II relocations of nearly 2000 Japanese Peruvians to U.S. internment camps. His rendition of Antigona (Yuyachkani & Comisión de Derechos Humanos, 2000), deploys the classic to honor those who disappeared amidst the traumatic violence of Peru’s recent decades.

Michelle Har Kim

Michelle Har Kim is an editor and independent scholar living in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles. She is a recent recipient of an NEA Translation Award, and author of “American Antipodes: Anna Kazumi Stahl’s Flores de un solo día” (The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies, 2016), an inquiry into Anglophone exceptionalism in Asian American literatures. She has also translated poetry by Peruvian-Argentinean novelist Julia Wong Kcomt.