#2440

Worship the monstresses, girl;
they are hungry and fathomless.

Feed your rage to Ammit.
Feed your sorrow to Medusa.
Feed your terror to Charybdis.
Lay your howling at the altar of the Nameless
and let her fill you with the cold vacuum of the void.

Worship the beast queens, girl;
they will teach you to devour your oppressors.

#2436

Preserving the Memory of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Literature

March 11th, 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, one of the most devastating disasters in recorded human history. The magnitude 9.0 quake which struck off the eastern coast of Japan on March 11th, 2011 remains the 4th largest recorded earthquake in modern times; it not only caused widespread damage in Japan, but even shifted the axis of the Earth. The massive tsunami following minutes after the quake took the lives of over 10,000 people, triggered meltdowns at 3 reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and left over $235 billion US dollars’ worth of destruction in its wake. After crossing the Pacific Ocean, its waves struck distant coasts hard enough to cause notable damage in the United States, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Chile, and the Galapagos Islands. 

Yet the true human impact of such earth-shaking disasters is not captured only in the number of casualties or the cost of response and recovery; it is captured in the personal experiences and journeys of those who survived, and the memories they bear of those who did not. So too are the lessons they learned, which are priceless to those of us who live on or near vulnerable coastlines. For example, with the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the North American West Coast, our “Big One” could look very similar to Japan’s and strike with just as little warning. As we say in the emergency preparedness world – it’s a matter of WHEN, not IF.

Therefore, in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, I would like to share some of my favorite written works on the subject. There can be no better way to honor those who lost their lives to this tragedy, nor to show our respect to the survivors who have worked so hard rebuilding their communities, than to take their stories and lessons to heart. Don’t let the subject matter dissuade you; we should not shy away from tragedy, because in tragedies like the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami we find poignant evidence of the beauty and strength of the human spirit.

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

Ghosts of the Tsunami is not a light read, yet it is absolutely worth the emotional journey. While Ghosts of the Tsunami touches on other aspects of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, its focus is the tragedy of Okawa Elementary and the 74 students lost while under their teachers’ care. Parry’s masterful narrative follows their grieving families through the immediate aftermath of the disaster and continues over the span of many years as some parents seek closure while others push for answers and accountability. The story of these families is a haunting reminder that disasters of this magnitude have the power to reshape the future of a community for generations – not only through quantifiable impacts like infrastructure and economic damage, but through the responsibility and emotional burden survivors carry with them.

So Happy to See Cherry Blossoms: Haiku from the Year of the Great Earthquake and Tsunami edited by Mayuzumi Madoka

Given the importance of poetry in Japanese culture, it is no surprise that there are several poetry collections about the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. So Happy to See Cherry Blossoms is distinctive for both the poignancy of its 17-syllable poems, all of which were written by Japanese citizens who personally experienced the disaster, and the amount of detail provided within. Along with both the Japanese and English translations of each poem, the reader is provided with the authors name, age, the number of tsunami-related fatalities in their hometown, and either backstory or direct quotes from the author explaining the inspiration for the piece. Interspersed between chapters is also commentary from the editor, distinguished haiku poet Mayuzumi Madoka, who travelled through the disaster zone in the months after to help survivors heal through poetry writing. 

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is a beautifully illustrated children’s book based on the true story of “Kaze no Denwa” (the phone of the wind or wind phone), a disconnected phone booth built by 72-year-old garden designer Itaru Sasaki to help him process the death of a close relative. After the tsunami devastated his town, other survivors began using the phone booth to communicate with their own lost family and friends; many found this expression of grief gave them the closure they needed to begin healing. Tens of thousands of people have visited the phone booth since 2011, many even traveling from other countries to experience its unique form of therapy. The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden crafts a simple yet heart-wrenching version of this story that speaks equally to young readers and adults alike, reminding us that grief is part of the human experience and healing can be found in the unlikeliest places. 

Beyond Me by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

Beyond Me is a fiction novel-in-verse told from the point of view of a 5th grader named Maya. Maya experiences the March 11th earthquake from the relative safety of her inland town where she’s lucky to lose neither her family nor her home. Instead, she struggles with survivor’s guilt and the trauma brought on by constant unpredictable aftershocks, many of which are major earthquakes in their own right. This is where Beyond Me truly shines – through clever use of font formatting and a disjointed writing style, the reader experiences each earthquake in real-time with Maya. Dropped into Maya’s uncertain world where even the ground beneath your feet can’t be trusted, readers of any age will identify with her conflicted emotions. Likewise, I’m sure many readers will identify with the impulse to ignore one’s own problems because “others have it worse”, and hopefully will learn with Maya how to help both themselves and others in a healthy way.

In addition to these 4 books, below is a short list of additional recommendations. This is hardly an exhaustive list of the English-language literature available on the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, but I believe there is something of value available for everyone (and all ages!). 

Drowning in the Floating World: Poems – Meg Eden
Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami – Gretel Ehrlich
March Was Made of Yarn: Writers Respond to Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Meltdown – Ed. David Karashima, Elmer Luke
The Orphan Tsunami of 1700: Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America by Brian Atwater, Musumi-Rokkaku Satoko, Satake Kenji, Tsuji Yoshinobu, Ueda Kazue, and David Yamaguchi
Tsunami vs the Fukushima 50: Poems – Lee Ann Roripaugh
Up from the Sea – Leza Lowitz


#2427

“Incitement of the Morrigan”

Warriors, why do you let your weapons fall?
A battle lost is not yet a battle done!
Does the outnumbered wolf bare her throat
to await the killing bite? Never!
She fights until her very last breath
no matter how much blood she’s lost
or how her vision darkens!
Her snapping jaws are ever at the ready
to take one final foe down with her.
Pick up your blades, warriors;
fight with every heartbeat left!

#2424

in my dreams
I slit the throats of abusive fathers
my nails sharp as harpy talons
I drag rapists into the streets by their hair
smash their skulls with a silver hammer
I ride laughing through dark woods
on the back of a great goat
I fear nothing
and no one
in my dreams

#2423

Forgive my lack of manners, I just /devour/ poetry
can never seem to let it breathe, take a sip
roll the vintage along my pallet and
discern dimensions of linguistic terroir.
I am just so /parched/ you see
I swig straight from the bottle like a boor
each syllable sweet as honeyed wine
divine versification rejuvenation!
But then the last stanza’s been swallowed
metaphors drying on my tongue
and I’m a desert /desperate/ for a drop
pining for poetry’s reprieve once more.

#2422

Born under Leo in the year of the Dragon
Ace of Wands embers smoldering in my marrow
I am driven to create, feverish with purpose.

Yet now I prostrate myself upon winter’s wet soil
extinguish my flames, welcome the dark
and let scavengers tear out the choicest sweets.

I shall disperse in beetle bellies, corvid craws
rot down to inert atoms under the moonlight
cease, surrender, stagnate
go still
and silent
and rest.

#2420

When your raging heart demands justice
and you can stomach no more sour lies
cry out to the Goddess.

Hers are the swift claws of judgment.
Hers are the red teeth of retribution.
Hers is the molten heart of the sun
that annihilates all shadow.

Even Ra the Great and Powerful
sends forth His bright-burning daughters
when evil demands holy reckoning.

#2417

Perhaps I have always walked death’s road.
After all, my corpse so easily reaches out
‘cross space and time to touch its siblings:
to lay in the snow on a stark Russian mountainside
(it was not your fault, Igor, you could not have known);
to curl up among the masses huddled
beneath Pompeii’s tephra burial shroud;
to drown in Sendai’s monstrous waves
or freeze in the north Atlantic on a clear April night.
These deaths, these beloved dead,
are clear as my own memories.
Is this witchcraft?
Is this wyrd?
(Is this anything?)

2415 – 2020 Book List

Behold, my 2020 book list! 2020 wasn’t kind to me reading-wise, as being part of my state’s covid response really messed up my overall schedule, so I read way fewer books this year than in most years. Still, I made up for that by reading some REALLY good books – including 26 with queer characters and at least 13 from authors of color. Highlights included The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, The Shadow of Kyoshi, and the Locked Tomb, Broken Earth, and Ascendant trilogies. House of Leaves was good, but I was expecting it to have a higher body count and I wanted more spooky house shenanigans and less relationship angst.

Did you read any of these books? DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THEM WITH ME?? Let me know!

  1. All the Windwracked Stars – Elizabeth Bear
  2. The Grand Escape – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  3. Flaming Lioness: Ancient Hymns for Egyptian Goddesses – Chelsea Luellon Bolton
  4. By the Mountain Bound – Elizabeth Bear
  5. The Sea Thy Mistress – Elizabeth Bear
  6. She-ra and the Princesses of Power: Legend of the Fire Princess – Gigi D.G
  7. House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski
  8. Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition – Paul Watson
  9. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns From Sumer – Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer
  10. The Cat in Ancient Egypt – Jaromir Malek
  11. Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear
  12. March Was Made of Yarn: Reflections on the Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Meltdown – Ed. by Elmer Luke and David Karashima
  13. Down With the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic – Steven Biel
  14. Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone – Richard Lloyd Parry
  15. Deathless Divide (Dread Nation) – Justina Ireland
  16. Stone Mad: A Karen Memory Adventure – Elizabeth Bear
  17. The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home: A Welcome to Night Vale Novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  18. Lord of Strength and Power: Ancient Hymns for Wepwawet – Chelsea Luellon Bolton
  19. Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women – Sylvia Brinton Perera
  20. The Essential Rumi – Trans. by Coleman Barks
  21. The Best of Elizabeth Bear – Elizabeth Bear
  22. Mongrels – Stephen Graham Jones
  23. Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Trilogy Book 1) – Tamsyn Muir
  24. The Shadow of Kyoshi – FC Lee
  25. Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Trilogy Book 2) – Tamsyn Muir
  26. Drowning in the Floating World: Poems – Meg Eden
  27. Lord of the Ways: An Anthology for Wepwawet – Ed. Dianne Bolton
  28. Seven Devils – Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
  29. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1) – N K Jemisin
  30. The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth Book 2) – N K Jemisin
  31. Heathen: Volume 3 – Natasha Alterici
  32. The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth Book 3) – N K Jemisin
  33. Dragon Pearl – Yoon Ha Lee
  34. Excuse Me, Are You A Witch? – Emily Horn and Pawet Pawlak
  35. Crow And Weasel – Barry Lopez and Tom Pohrt
  36. Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan
  37. Wilder Girls – Rory Power
  38. The Scapegracers – Hannah Abigail Clarke
  39. The Deep – Rivers Solomon
  40. The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon
  41. Three for the Road: Stories from Dread Nation – Justina Ireland
  42. The Tiger’s Daughter (The Ascendant Trilogy Book 1) – K Arsenault Rivera
  43. The Phoenix Empress (The Ascendant Trilogy Book 2) – K Arsenault Rivera
  44. Girls of Storm and Shadow – Natasha Ngan
  45. Witch Pilgrim Heretic – K.D. Hume
  46. Titanic: Psychic Forewarnings of a Tragedy – George Behe

#2407

I am not the granddaughter of the witches you couldn’t burn.
I am not the blood of their blood or any of that suburban white witch bullshit.
I am Witch because the title is mine to claim by right:
by right of my rage
by right of my resistance
by right of my existence in a world
that threatens to crush everything I love under the boot heel of assimilation.
You want Burning Times?
I’ll show you some motherfucking Burning Times.

#2400

look into my eyes;
how can you not see I am
Alexandria’s charred skeleton
Delphi’s discard, Pompeii’s corpse-hollows
a husk of a revenant vomiting
endless bean sí grief-wail?

HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE I AM
A THING ALREADY DEAD?

#2398

“Measurements”

The picking could be worse!
At least I didn’t make anything bleed today.
Well, this morning.
Okay, in the last hour.
…anything that’s visible to others.

But I promise I’ll be better!
I’ll go cold turkey right now.
I mean, starting tomorrow.
Okay, starting Monday.
Well, the first Monday of next month.
You know,
this would make a great New Year’s resolution.

#2396

You will survive this
the Morrigan pronounces
staring into my dull eyes

(fresh-torn cavity
bone shards and congealing blood
you took everything)

but the words are no kindness
only Her battlefield prophecy
impassive and immutable

#2394

Pass by, hungry flames
this land is not yours to consume!

Bast your Mistress stands with me
I command you to pass by!

The Eyes of Ra stand with me
I command you to pass by!

The Netjeru stand with me
I command you to pass by!

I command you to pass by!
I command you to pass by!
I command you to pass by!

#2393

You left me lost and disoriented
but Wepwawet guided me safely back to the path.

You left me stripped of all your gifts
but Inanna taught me to stand proud in my nakedness.

You left me barren as a desert
but Hetheru grew overflowing gardens in my parched soil.

You left me exiled in my own soul
but the Morrigan thrust a sword in my hand to win back my sovereignty.

You left me dead and cold
but Bast coaxed a roaring flame from the last tiny ember in my chest.

You left me
but kinder gods, better gods
never will.

#2386

I think perhaps
I am as much a woman as
Scylla with her many serpent heads
Charybdis with her churning waters
Ammit with her long crocodile jaws
all bloody from chewing rotten hearts
which is to say
not really.