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Sam Aug 16
maybe the difference is just
that i can bring myself to talk about it, now,
without my whole body trying to relive it.

maybe the difference passed with the 10 year mark.
and the 11th, as it went by and I only had to blink it away,
rather than spend the whole time trying to think of anything else.

the only thing the rest of the world seems to remember
is the power plant explosion. Fukushima. Early 2010s, sometime --
(and it's almost funny, the way just about anyone at all can count through the major nuclear events in Japan: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukushima. Make it easy on all those people who didn't get stuck living with the consequences of them.)

I remember, 30 kilometers away from the epicenter,
the way our classroom shook on March 11th.
I remember books falling off shelves,
my classmates and I clutching at desk legs, at each other,
the floor shaking up and down, up and down, not just side to side.

I remember watching the broadcasts the next morning,
2011, and cars floating out in the ocean by Tohoku.
Homes, gone; Tsunami flood gates washed away,
High schools turning into evacuation centers,
Building ceilings collapsing as people tried to run away.

That night in Tokyo, the trains stopped.
Completely.

Phone networks went down as everyone flocked to use them,
The highways swarmed with cars,
the ground. kept. shaking.

In Tohoku, after the initial earthquake,
after the Tsunami that came up too high,
as people tried to run away fast enough, fires erupted.

And then we watched on the morning news, my family and I --
tired, but safe and sound, far enough away,
as the Fukushima Dai-ichi powerplant erupted,
killing its workers with it.

We, the fortunate foreigners outside the destruction area,
we flew out on a plane, came back a month later.

In Tokyo, where the worst of the damage
was the bent tip of Tokyo tower,
there was a water shortage,
a power outage, or two,
and the aftershocks
through the ground
didn't stop til July.

When I went up to an affected area of Tohoku -- two years later,
All of their dwellings were still temporary.
Their main export of fish, still deemed unsafe.
Their main grocery store, a 7/11 conbini.
Their population half a ghost town,
so I helped plant vegetables.
Watched, the next year, as they gained back some of their boats.
As the seas started to be safe again to fish.
As industry started to become permanent, again.

People came up with a lot of names,
for what happened on March 11th, 2011.
The Great Tohoku Earthquake
The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
The Triple Disasters

For all that I was safe, during it,
I still lived beside those events.
Still know that only now, over a decade later,
are people beginning (slowly) to re-inhabit
that ghost-town of radioactivity in Fukushima.

At 10, there is not much you can do, to stop an earthquake.
Or a tsunami.
Or a fire,
or a disastrous power plant explosion.

But I tried my hardest to do what I could, to help in the aftermath.

At 21, I hit the ground, go dizzy, or blackout
whenever something unexpectedly shakes:
a bridge, a bus shelter, a ladder.

The date is tethered onto me like a broken lifeboat,
something I will never be able to drift away from.

And in a way, I am furious at the world for forgetting.
For daring to look away -- but there are other events.
Other disasters, natural and man-made and in between.
And I can not keep them all scarred across my heart.

But I remember this one.
I'll keep remembering for everyone who doesn't.
And next time, I can only hope to be enough
to prevent some of the loss,
to learn and progress from the past,
until maybe
it never happens again, at all.
Sam Jan 2
sometimes, I look at you in the mirror, and it's all I can do
to remember that you are not a ghost.

most days, though, it feels that way.

like everything repeats itself, over and over.
like we're the ones slowly fading away amidst it all.

I go to work and I go back to somewhere I can not call home --
and I sleep, and wake, and do it all over again.
sometimes, I remember to make food, to eat.
and this tired, endless cycle continues.

You have friends, of course. You have a family.

But I've started counting them away by distance.
By how many months or years it's been since I've last seen them.
By how many weeks since I've last heard them.

I feel haunted by the reminder of it:
By the echoes of memories in everything I see, or touch.
By the aching remnants of absence left behind.

If all you were was a mirage of other people's constructs,
you'd be gone, by now.
you'd have melded away into the background,
like unappealing drapery.

there'd be nothing left to keep you real.


But I still get up in the morning. Go into work.
React to the incidents around me as if I care.
I'm still here, listlessly drifting.

There are things I want to do, someday.
Someone I want to become, someday.
People I want to see again, someday.

so we're still here, you and I.
adrift, until we can find a stable anchor.
something concrete enough to stop you haunting me.
Sam Oct 2021
I think I will always be a little heartbroken by you.

Yet there is something to be said,
for learning to love something
before anyone can warn you away.

I like to think,
in a world where I found you
a little older, a little less naive,
little less ready to embrace things
with arms wide open and free --
I like to think someone would have cautioned me away.

Do not become so enamored by something
that you become inseparable from it.

Do not give all of yourself away,
because there are pieces you will
want back.

They will tell you:
if you fall seven times, get up eight.
Remember:
the more you fall, the harder it is
to get back up. To stand tall.
And stand tall, you must.


I was too young, though-
and the old, they let the young
make their own mistakes.
(I like to think I would've dived in
headfirst, still, fallen anyway)

So I got my heart crushed
put back together not a little intact,
and I figured out how best to keep it.

You aren't my first memory,
But you're in my second,
an afterthought.
And now you're a dark, shadowed cloud, hanging
just over my shoulder.

You are not a home that I can forget:
I loved you, I love you,
like a desert craves the rain.

I think I will always be a little heartbroken by you,
and yet it's something to hold close.

For the lessons learned,
For the things I came away with,
gained only because I refused
to fight against them.

The language I learned at your side
is like a siren song,
beckoning me back to the only place
I have ever been able to call home.

But I can learn to release my hold,
Loosen it until the storm forecast
hovers out of sight,
It presence distant
rather than looming.

In time, I think,
I can learn to let you go.
Sam Oct 2021
I stumbled over my words, today,
and it hurt.

Like nails, chipped off and dug in.
Like grief, slow and numb until it swallows, drowns you.
Like a culmination of things that has no good end.

It hurt, to feel a mess,
to stutter and restart,
to not quite have the right things come out.
It hurt, to hold my breath in,
to keep my ears open,
to not say: slow down, slow down, please,
you're speaking too fast, please.

To have to force the words through,
any that will come, on a day
where I hadn't wanted
to need to speak at all.

It. hurts.
Physically, under my chest.
A dull, hollow ache, that settles.
My head throbbing over it all.

It hurts, and nothing soothes it.

Not the feeling of inadequacy.
Not the bereft sense of loneliness.
Not the gnawing helplessness.


A cold comfort:
it's better, the next day -- easier.
to hide the uneasiness, to speak.
to keep face, match tone.

Easier, but not better.

I clench my hands into fists,
dig my nails into my skin,
and there is no one to notice that, either.
Sam Jul 2021
there's a sort of hope here,
sun shining through glass
warmth spreading throughout.

see, and this... this is the kind of thing i want to be able to grasp.
hold onto.
a quick write from December, 2017
Sam Jul 2021
sometimes, you breathe, and you breathe, and nothing changes.

if you can just look outside
of yourself,
you find the suncast sky,
blue turning black, lit only be street lamps.

if you can just look outside,
the tears stop,
they still.

but things like pain --
things like hurt --

they linger.

in the words I try to form,
in the mistakes I try
not to make.

they tell you to breathe in, breathe out.
count your breaths, center yourself in the present.
an anchor, a tether.

I wish it could be enough
to stave off other things:
like sadness, a crescendoing echo in my heart;
like hurt, a tangent constant at the edges;
like love, because you can never hold them close
enough.
Sam Jun 2021
there is an art
to secrets

a necessity
to keeping them,
to hiding them away

like the dust under the rug
or the thing just Too Uncomfortable to talk about
that get hidden
under guilt
and shame
and fear
(this
is not
a reason
to keep them)

but there exists a thing
called protection
and something
more terrible:
love.

these are things you will die for.
sometimes, secrets fall into place
so you do not have to.

sometimes, yes, they will bury you whole
still alive, still breathing, but drowning --
there are days when they will save you
instead.
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