happiness

“Happy birthday, Haku,” she said.

I watched her, soft and silent. She gazed at me with full and gleaming eyes, soft hazel shaded gray, and I was so touched I wanted to cry.

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” she said, “and I almost thought that I wouldn’t make it tonight, either. Things have been crazy…”

She paused, blinked, and inhaled. Then she started to talk again, low and slow and steady. She told me about her job, her classes, all the things she had been up to since we’d last met, and I listened with quiet attention. Her staying busy did not surprise me — she had always been that kind of person. I was a little concerned that she would get in over her head and burn out, but for the moment she seemed to be doing well. More than anything, she said, she was happy. And that was what mattered most to me.

“I’ll try to come again,” she said, “but I don’t really know when, my schedule is so hectic now… but listen. I’m graduating in the fall, and my boss says I’m due for a promotion, and there’s this program I want to apply for… you see? I’m happy. Really happy, things have been great and it looks like it’ll continue this way… We have so much to look forward to.”

We have so much to look forward to. Something in that statement profoundly moved me. After all that had happened, and considering how terrible her situation still was, the fact that she could still say she was happy, still say she was looking forward to the future…

Around us, the sky darkened and the salty wind began to blow the day’s fallen leaves off the grasses. The air was thick and polluted, the stars nearly invisible, but she didn’t seem to mind, and neither did I. Our meeting had been long overdue — and together, in spite of everything, we had so much to look forward to.

“Happy birthday,” she’d said. Another year, come and gone. She left the cemetery at midnight, the moment when it became not my birthday but hers, and as I looked after her I felt at peace. 

Things were going to be okay. They just had to be.

Chasing Life With You (Chapter 14)


I think that was probably the best birthday of my life. Back in my childhood, I had never really had the opportunity to celebrate things like birthdays, especially if they were my own – so for my old schoolmate, completely without prompting, to remember and to care… that meant much more to me than I was willing to admit. The surprise party, in the end, was a complete success.

As it turned out, my housemates had loosely planned out the whole rest of the day. First they brought out some board games and similar entertainment, and the three of us played together until lunch. Then, after a short meal of some extravagant takeout Katsumi had bought in the city, the two musicians put on a mini-concert for me in the living room. I was so overwhelmed by the whole affair that the oddly moving events of the early morning were entirely swept from my mind.

Lounging on the couch, I watched and listened for almost two whole hours as they filled the house with music. The songs they played were generally loud, upbeat and festive; some of them I’d heard before, but others were entirely new to me. During a long interlude they took turns soloing against each other in what resolved into an improvisatory jam session. I took it all in with a big, stupid smile on my face, enjoying every second of it. I knew I was incredibly lucky to be sharing space with them – and I could hardly believe that my summer had turned out this way.

After the concert we went back to gaming, and in a demonstration of my newly-gained skills of a twenty-five year-old, I kept up my continuous losing streak. It didn’t bother me, though. I had never been very competitive, and spending time with my housemates in this way was just too fun. Finally, at around four, Tadashi deliberately let me win one game and then left to start prepping my birthday dinner. Katsumi chatted with me as we cleaned up and put the board games away upstairs.

“Are you having a good time?” he started.

“For sure,” I replied. “Thanks so much. Today’s been great.”

“You know what, Chas, I was mistaken about you.” He glanced over his shoulder at me, his eyes flashing.

“What?”

“I always thought you weren’t a very fun person. But how you were today was nice.”

I was a bit surprised by this comment. “Really?”

He nodded. “I think you should be more genuine. You don’t say what you really mean or do what you really want or show your emotions most of the time. You spend most of the day browsing your computer doing pointless things, you dip your toes into new things like cooking and guitar but you don’t actively commit to them… you can’t even make up your mind about me. You live with me, but you don’t talk to me, and you don’t talk all that much to Tama either. We’re going to be here all summer. If you think games are fun and you want to play more, then say so. If you want to talk to me, then say so. If you want to play guitar, just walk into the studio and pick one up. You wait for us to invite you to do things, which I know is part of your consideration and natural reservation, but you also seem to wait for yourself. Honestly, you confuse me.”

I stared at him. He was right, of course – and I had no idea how to react.

“It’s just a thought,” he said, brushing a hand casually through his hair. “No big deal. I’m just saying, you never know what might happen tomorrow, so you should live today. Be genuine. Have a meaningful time. That’s how I live, me personally.”

“I’ll… I’ll think about it.”

Katsumi noticed how taken aback I was, and he loosened up a little. “Oh, nevermind, Chas. Listen, in a little while I’m gonna go help Tama in the kitchen, so you won’t be stuck with me for too long. Tell me what you did this morning.”

“Tadashi took me out kayaking,” I said.

“I figured. Did you like it?”

“Never been kayaking before today… it was good. Not really fun, I’d say. Tadashi put up quite an act.”

“How so?”

“He pretended like he was all depressed and stuff, like something was wrong. I thought he was really having a hard time. I guess he did that to lure me out and make sure I’d follow him – I was really relieved. I’d completely forgotten about it until you asked just now.”

“Tama’s not that good of an actor,” Katsumi remarked. Before I could process that he followed up with, “I was glad he managed to get you out before I got home.”

“How long have you guys been planning this whole thing?”

“Mmm… Tama mentioned your birthday to me early last week, I think. So we started planning around then.”

“Thank you, again. It means a lot to me.”

He shook his head. “It’s Tama you should thank.”

Dinner that night was a huge array of my favorite dishes, arranged basically buffet style. We would definitely have leftovers, I noted, but that was alright. Everything was delicious. After we finished eating, Katsumi took a big cake out of the fridge, and Tadashi lit up a full twenty-five short, colorful candles. Amid all the excitement, I forgot to make a wish. We sat together on the porch, devouring the cake while watching the sun set, each of us basking in the glow of the day-long celebration.

“I’m so tired,” Tadashi commented after a while.

“Sleep early tonight,” Katsumi replied.

“I think I will. Is that okay, Chas?”

I looked across the table at him. “‘Course. I’m exhausted, too. Thank you guys again. I haven’t had this much fun in forever, and I used to never celebrate my birthday… I’m really not used to it.”

“Birthdays are important,” Tadashi said. He smiled at me, and I smiled back.

“If you’re sleeping soon, I’m gonna go shower,” Katsumi announced, getting up from his chair.

We ended up showering one after another, and as a result we were all in bed by nine. Lacking any energy to write, I crashed into my sheets and fell asleep almost immediately. Perfect days, after all, never last. And I had no idea what the next day would bring.


grounded

in the shadows a lone figure stands watching you
he matches you stride for stride
dash around a corner and she’s leaning against the lamppost
dive down an alley and they’re napping against the wall
realizing life is an endless game of chase but you’re the only one chasing
and when the sun comes up you see you were chasing yourself

because they say we all have guardian angels
but those angels can be human too

so show me your smile, then, if your shadow is holding you back
show me your eyes, then, if your younger self is pulling you forward
hear his gentle laugh resounding in your ears and know
at least you will never be alone

at least you will never be alone

they think you’re looking out the window at the death and despair beyond
but you’re staring at your own reflection
encouraging, beckoning
because there’s something on the other side
if passing into another world means happiness
if this is what it means to be crazy
you say “I will follow you”

because they say we all have guardian angels
but those angels must be human too

so show me your smile, then, if your friendship is tearing you apart
show me your eyes, then, if you’re knocking on death’s door
hear her brave voice resounding in your ears and know
at least you will never be alone

you will never be alone

For my friend J.

Happy birthday, love.

Recurring Dreams in Fantasy

sitting at the edge of a red brick wall,
playing games and pretending that we won’t fall –
well, here we find ourselves again,
birthing dreams anew.

chasing the world and promising we’ll both make it
you gave me your hand and just told me to fake it;
nothing’s changed but the games we played,
yet here we are again.

time passes in strands that catch flame and crown,
a forest fire that rages until one of us drowns –
but these are just our days, we know,
and here we go again.

because what else can we do, what else would there be?
a world that’s not true, a you without me?
you told me that day that we were going to make it –
and look, here we are again.

what happens from now, neither of us know,
but as winter turns into slow-drifting snow,
I imagine a time and a place exactly one year ahead –
two children still playing on that red brick wall,
with new games, maybe, and one of them might fall,
but the other will catch their hand and say,
see, I told you –

and here we are again.


Happy birthday to my dear friend I. Until we meet again! ❤

「Anniversary ~2019~ 」

Preface

When I say “anniversary,” what comes to mind?

Maybe it’s a wedding anniversary. Maybe, it’s a dear friend’s birthday. Or maybe, it’s the anniversary of the day your loved one died.

The different ways humans understand and categorize time are highly arbitrary, if you think about it. Some of us follow the cycle of the moon, and others follow the cycle of the sun. For some people, their daily clock starts at midnight, and for others, their clock starts ticking at sunrise. Some nations follow daylight savings, and others don’t. And for some cultures, the flow of time is itself nonlinear.

Most of us generally sort time into increments like days, months, and years that repeat endlessly, but the way we do so differs depending on our language, culture, and location. What if your “year” was thirty days long instead of three hundred and sixty-five? How many birthdays would you have had until now? How “old” would you be?

Because the way we understand time is so arbitrary, we depend on anniversaries to keep us grounded. We hold on to birthdays, death days, wedding days, days of historical events, and so on because we’d get lost in the flow of time otherwise. Anniversaries are thus incredibly important to our survival and our sanity.

This book is a compilation of poems I’ve written this year to commemorate anniversaries of all kinds, starting from when I first began to blog. It’s good to wrap up the year by looking back, but it’s also important that we use the final moments of 2019 to think about the relation of time to ourselves, the things we care about, and the people whom we love.

So, what did 2019 mean to you?

What anniversaries did you celebrate?


Another Year Has Gone…

August 3 (◯◯’s Birthday)

Over the mountains and under the sea,
A thunderous world stares back at me;
Threads of time slip by unnoticed,
And pass through my fingers to yours.

Today, you are seventeen,
A beautiful soul just beginning to dream;
But what now, what next,
Who is it you’ll become?

Because the life you live has only just begun.

With intent you look ahead,
Searching with unease and dread;
The glowing horizon remains ever impartial
And what there lies in wait?

But whispering gently in your ear,
The autumn wind tries to ease your fear:
On this day of endless dawn,
The sun will rise again.

The sun will rise, and we’ll see what happens then.

The trials that come may give you pause,
You may feel despair completely without cause;
But on such days you must remember:
You are not alone.

No matter what it is you face,
No matter what dreams you choose to chase,
Those who love you will be here by your side.
And this too, please don’t forget —

So little time has passed since then,
But I’m so glad we met.


Seventy-Four to One

August 6 (Atomic Bombing on Hiroshima)

The ocean breeze flows easily,
I close my eyes to try to see
The branches of the tree of time
Still reaching out to you and me.

I take them in my hands and sigh,
You look away and start to cry;
“We’ll be okay,” I try to say
But to you I could never lie.

The world folds in like a paper crane,
A freeway collapses into a single lane –
Seventy-four years condense to one day
And the fires are still burning in the autumn rain.

A jam-packed calendar of tragedy –
This is no longer inhumanity!
What have we done, what have we learned?
Just killing ourselves in plain insanity.

Hundreds of thousands swamp the river of death,
Worlds torn apart by a species’ breath –
Nothing has changed, if anything, it’s worse!
Yet we still try to live – only ignorant and cursed.

We’ll go again to such extremes,
You’ve seen it in prophetic dreams;
Having locked our memories in chests full of blood,
We can no longer hear our own children’s screams.

Seventy-four years and I still can’t see
The peaceful life you begged from me;
Longer and longer the branches grow,
As we lose sight of what once could be.


許してください

August 7 (Week of Atomic Bombings)

As thick gray petals rained down from the skies,
I begged of you to close your eyes –
But we both knew we could not unsee
The flames that would soon set us free.

“I will not forget you to the end of my days;
I will not rest until we have changed our ways;
What happened to you will not happen twice,
For such tragedy is really worth no price.”

Forgive me.
Even to the dying, I can do nothing but lie.

All of the souls now wandering at night
Reach out their hands to the dying of the light;
I make as if to hurl them a safety line –
Knowing they will never again see the sun shine.

“A moment of silence, we will hold for the dead,
To honor the blood and tears that they shed;
And we will do more, I promise to you:
The laws will change, and our hearts will too.”

Forgive me.
Even to the dead, I can do nothing but lie.

Making our livings manufacturing death
Selling off ways to silence one’s breath
Forgetting the promises we once cared to make
Failing to learn from our worldwide mistake.

Pointing fingers, as if that matters now
Debating ethics, as if history will change somehow
Putting up fronts of sincerity and sadness
Spray painting over our internal madness.

Forgive me.
I should not be alive…
For so many of the living can do nothing but lie.


Even

August 8 (Week of Atomic Bombings)

Even when the last leaf falls from the tree,
Even when the last creature drowns in the sea,
I will take you by the hand and say,
“I’m glad I am alive today.”

There’s so much that we do not know,
So much the gods have yet to show,
But if our time here must now end,
I’ll go freely, so that our world can mend.

Our era was brief, but brief is just a word;
All I see now are the smoking feathers of a bird.
It’s trying to rise, but only spreading the flames,
Killing itself with its ignorant aims.

Even at the flash of a nuclear bomb,
Even at the end of the final calm,
I will throw out both my arms and say,
“I still believe in peace today.”

To what we have done, no thing can compare,
And we continue to do it on a childish dare,
As if life and balance are toys to be played,
Then tossed in the trash once we move up a grade.

Beautiful creatures now incapable of love,
We’ve chased away our single white dove.
It returns despite abuse to fly over our heads –
But by the end of the day, we have torn it to shreds.

Even as an assault rifle lets loose its roar,
Even as the schoolchildren dive to the floor,
I will close my eyes and say,
“I will not give up hope today.”


A Single Star-Filled Sky

August 9 (Atomic Bombing on Nagasaki)

As the darkness sets in I gaze up at the sky,
Wishing I had the ability to fly –
But I don’t even know where it is that you are,
So where would I head, for how long and how far?
The light is fading, and without you I’m stuck here,
But strangely tonight this produces no fear;
Just counting the bombs like I would count passing cars,
Knowing that you and I are now seeing the same stars.

On the other side of the horizon line,
You live in a world that’s no better than mine,
Full of clumsy creatures who act without thinking,
Who commit acts of destruction without even blinking.
They say that two minuses are supposed to make a plus,
So should we let two countries war without making a fuss?
I love you all, but it’s beyond my control –
Humanity is determined to rip apart my soul.

Dozens of years have come and gone,
And here we are at the edge of dawn,
Repeating ourselves like a song on replay,
Crawling desperately toward the end of the day.
The ground cracks open beneath my feet,
You wrap your child in a bloodstained sheet,
They whisper “I’m sorry” and pretend to care,
While celebrating nothing but death and despair.

Gazing at the same sea of stars, you and I,
We wonder how quickly our time will fly,
Praying we’ll live long enough to see
A world where love will be finally set free.
But tonight I understand that it’s only a dream –
One we can’t reach, one still too extreme.
I hoped we would meet in the future some day –
But tonight I am dying, so alone we will stay.


黙祷

August 10 (Week of Atomic Bombings)

As the time approaches I close my eyes;
The world fills with our empty sighs;
I want to pray, but the words won’t come –
And deep inside, my heart is numb.

How can I go on living?

For all those who were there, I cried –
For those who lived, and those who died;
But the rain today refuses to fall,
And all I feel is incredibly small.

It’s not the time that has dried my tears –
Though the days have quickly turned into years;
It’s the incredible failure of humanity to move,
To learn from the past and force itself to improve.

I don’t know how much longer here I can stay,
From this silent prayer to the end of the day;
This legacy is too much of a burden to bear,
Made worse by the refusal of thousands to care.

Our history is tangible in this moment of time,
In all of its glories and its war-filled crime,
And as it cements into our future and past,
I pray for the dead and for those who still last.


On the Edge of Another World

August 14 (◯◯’s Birthday)

Waiting in the shadows for a new world to be born,
We look back at the promises we’d once sworn;
Still holding the thoughts that we chose then to confide,
We watch the years pass and grow older side-by-side.

The memories we shared, the dreams we chased,
And all of the challenges that we each faced –
Today, on your birthday, they are tangible and strong,
As we turn towards a future where we both belong.

As the waves crawl in to a Malaysian shore,
We strain in silence for something more –
Seeking a happiness that was taken away,
Hoping that together we’ll reach it someday.

And if you must burn bridges for the life that you need,
That I will stand by you is still guaranteed –
For although human beings must live their lives alone,
Those we call “family” together face the unknown.


手紙

August 18 (◯◯’s Birthday)

Dear ◯◯、

If you are reading this, can you tell me?

If you’re alive, will you send me a sign?

Today is your birthday

Again, this year

I have passed many of your birthdays

Without you.

I will play music for you, today

Will you please listen?

From wherever you are

Whoever you are

I hope the sounds of the piano will reach you

And maybe the sound of my voice

Or yours

Are you still sick?

Are you happy?

You made me happy

When I was feeling depressed

And couldn’t name it

I wish you had someone

Who could make you happy too

All I can do now

Is play music

And remember you

How long has it been?

Every year I feel regret

Around this time

You have taught me

Not to make such regrets

Have I grown since then?

If you have returned to the stars

Or not

Do you still remember me?

It doesn’t matter so much

I’m still alive, after all

I just want you to be happy

At least today

On your birthday

Can you feel it?

Time is slowing down for you

So that you can smile again

Today

Someday.

From 〇〇

August 2019


on this eternal morning I

September 11 (9/11)

on this eternal morning I
listen to you breathe and cry
“it’s okay, it’s time now to let go…”
these whispered words are all I know
and yet…

and yet you see that I love you
because our hearts just grew and grew
together in this empty, dying world
we won’t show our flags unfurled
there’ll be no war today

blind to each other’s bodies we
shared our souls ‘till we could see
the meanings of “now you and I”
the hallowed ground where you now lie
it’s beauty, after all

fading slowly back into the light
the moon protests our global fight
“night and day both give no place…”
I’ll follow now the dream you chased
it’s precious, after all

still reaching for the sunrise I
will close your eyes and gently sigh
a tinge of burning passion felt
maybe revenge would my heart melt
and yet…

and yet you see that I love you
because our hearts just grew and grew
together in this empty, dying world
we won’t show our flags unfurled
there’ll be no war today

there’ll be no war today, I think
it’s our love after all


Last Dawn

November 5 (◯◯’s Birthday)

at the edge of eternal night,
at the end of a sparrow’s flight,
I’ll be waiting, waiting for you.
playing
        chasing
                talking
wading
we’re burning in the light of day,
living our lives without a say,
still struggling to find the way
        but at the edge of “come what may,”
I’ll be waiting, waiting for you. 
        as if we could understand our own reflections
        our own shadows beneath our feet
        our bodies laying in the street
well they never, never saw us.
and if they never saw us,
what could we have done?
        turning towards a future we cannot grasp,
        putting our destinies on silent timelapse,
        we chase the dreams we never had –
and when we wake up and open our eyes,
there I’ll be waiting, waiting for you.

Nocturne of a Dreamer

December 6 (◯◯’s Birthday)

sitting at the edge of dawn,
waiting for who knows how long
the first bird shares her siren song
     and we –
in this intangible moment we
     go off into infinity
stepping into the unknown that is our life.

as though we could have stopped them,
     and made this place our own
as though we could have met them,
     and bent our fates anew
we chase each dawn from night to day,
each following our own loving way –
     then searching for the words to say,
words that might still change the world someday.

reaching into open arms, we gaze
     at these reflections of our own blind eyes
     at our opposite horizon lines
and we say, “we will not go.”
we say “this is not the end.”

because here, the sun is rising –
     hear, the sun is rising –
and today
with nothing else to do
     and no other path to take
we follow it into eternity.

Nocturne of a Dreamer

sitting at the edge of dawn,
waiting for who knows how long
the first bird shares her siren song
     and we –
in this intangible moment we
     go off into infinity
stepping into the unknown that is our life.

as though we could have stopped them,
     and made this place our own
as though we could have met them,
     and bent our fates anew
we chase each dawn from night to day,
each following our own loving way –
     then searching for the words to say,
words that might still change the world someday.

reaching into open arms, we gaze
     at these reflections of our own blind eyes
     at our opposite horizon lines
and we say, “we will not go.”
we say “this is not the end.”

because here, the sun is rising –
     hear, the sun is rising –
and today
with nothing else to do
     and no other path to take
we follow it into eternity.

For my dear friend K… happy birthday.

Entry #16 – Chasing Time, and Birthdays

Hi everyone, Kohaku here. I hope you all had a great week.

I’m tired and writing quickly, so please excuse this short post and any English errors! I know I haven’t been putting out a lot of good quality stuff lately – or at least I’m not super proud of most of my recent posts – but I hope you’ll believe me when I say I have a lot of exciting plans for my future work! I just have to find the time to actually do that work, and it seems like time has run away from me lately.

At least it has run away to good things. A lot of the stuff I’m doing in my personal life right now is providing me with creative ideas, so hopefully once I have some time to sit down and work at it, I’ll produce some writings I can be proud of. Right now I’m just trying to make at least one high-quality post per week. I wrote Last Dawn a few days ago, have you all read it? It was for a dear friend’s birthday. He really means a lot to me and I’m glad the poem turned out well.

We’re one year older now… and this year is almost over. It’s rather crazy, but as they say, time flies. I’ll do my best to chase it and maybe one day in the future I’ll catch up. For now, I just want to make sure I’m doing the best I can. With everything.

This week, think about where you are in relation to time. Are you living in the present, fully content with where and who you are? Are you chasing after your future, your dreams and aspirations, things that might not come to be but are worth chasing anyway? Or are you living in the future? Sometimes, we need to take a deep breath and put on the brakes. If you’ve gotten ahead of yourself, think about that. I get ahead of myself a lot.

Anyhow, take care. Don’t forget to smile.

KT

Last Dawn

at the edge of eternal night,   
at the end of a sparrow’s flight,
I’ll be waiting, waiting for you.
playing
chasing
talking
wading
we’re burning in the light of day,
living our lives without a say,
still struggling to find the way
but at the edge of “come what may,”
I’ll be waiting, waiting for you.
as if we could understand our own reflections
our own shadows beneath our feet
our bodies laying in the street
well they never, never saw us.
and if they never saw us,
what could we have done?
turning towards a future we cannot grasp,
putting our destinies on silent timelapse,
we chase the dreams we never had –
and when we wake up and open our eyes,
there I’ll be waiting, waiting for you.

For my dear friend D. Happy Birthday. I’ll see you someday.

手紙

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Dear ◯◯、

If you are reading this, can you tell me?

If you’re alive, will you send me a sign?

Today is your birthday

Again, this year

I have passed many of your birthdays

Without you.

I will play music for you, today

Will you please listen?

From wherever you are

Whoever you are

I hope the sounds of the piano will reach you

And maybe the sound of my voice

Or yours

Are you still sick?

Are you happy?

You made me happy

When I was feeling depressed

And couldn’t name it

I wish you had someone

Who could make you happy too

All I can do now

Is play music

And remember you

How long has it been?

Every year I feel regret

Around this time

You have taught me

Not to make such regrets

Have I grown since then?

If you have returned to the stars

Or not

Do you still remember me?

It doesn’t matter so much

I’m still alive, after all

I just want you to be happy

At least today

On your birthday

Can you feel it?

Time is slowing down for you

So that you can smile again

Today

Someday.

From 〇〇

August 2019

On the Edge of Another World

Waiting in the shadows for a new world to be born,
We look back at the promises we’d once sworn;
Still holding the thoughts that we chose then to confide,
We watch the years pass and grow older side-by-side.

The memories we shared, the dreams we chased,
And all of the challenges that we each faced –
Today, on your birthday, they are tangible and strong,
As we turn towards a future where we both belong.

As the waves crawl in to a Malaysian shore,
We strain in silence for something more –
Seeking a happiness that was taken away,
Hoping that together we’ll reach it someday.

And if you must burn bridges for the life that you need,
That I will stand by you is still guaranteed –
For although human beings must live their lives alone,
Those we call “family” together face the unknown.

Happy Birthday!


For my cousin C… lots of love. Someday, the world will treat you right… and until then, keep on smiling.