These two poems are in a form called haibun, a Japanese form that combines prose poetry with haiku that I’ve been working in while writing about Japanese pop culture for my newest book manuscript, "She Returns to the Floating World."
"Rescuing Seiryu, the Blue Dragon" was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s fim Spirited Away, as well as some Japanese mythology and contemporary anime I researched that mentioned a blue dragon Seiryu, a guardian spirit of water who brings rain. I also found pictures of this dragon on ancient Japanese maps over bodies of water.
"They Wish Godzilla a Happier Ending" was inspired by the Godzilla movies, because I always found his birth from a nuclear explosion so interesting as a metaphor for the destruction caused by man’s discovery of nuclear power. Both poems try to speak to ecological themes.
Rescuing Seiryu, the Blue Dragon
You met the dragon in the garden. Sometimes he flies in circles outside your window. This morning he appeared as a young boy. He shows you a vision of your parents, lying in a barn. With his face so close you smell hay.
He bleeds from the wounds of paper birds, from a swallowed curse. Can your healing rice cake keep him from death? You hold his head in your arms as he squirms red, you force his jaws open and touch his teeth. When you feed him he gags and chokes, changing from human to dragon and back, his eyes always blue.
The dragon is really the river of your childhood home. He hands you a pink tennis shoe you lost in the water when you were seven. That river was drained years ago for development.
Since then the dragon
has no home but you, no name
but your memory.
They Wish Godzilla a Happier Ending
Dragon who arrives from the sea, your breath melts skyscrapers and your tiny hands wave piteously. In the city they chant your name, a mantra, a prayer, hoping the sea might bring more than destruction. You lift yourself from the water, feet planted square on bus tracks and shopping malls. O lizard of psychic remembrance, O dragon, dinosaur, our angered water spirit, you may also become a protector. You bat pterodactyls away from the city with one hand, stop the flames of a turtle with another. Your hands like decaying sea-flowers. You roar as if hurt, your mouth horrible, your atomic breath a curse you cannot end. Your dreams are filled always with acrid smoke, decaying charred rubble, the skeletons of school children, and you want them to stop. Swim away into the nuclear glow of sunset, O Godzilla, whose skin matches the mossy tide, to a gentler ending, away from the island of sorrows, tsunamis, away from miniature maidens and soldiers wobbling, as if unsure, as they watch you go.
The green water flows
trickling from knees and ankles
as your breathing slows.
Core Youth Faculty member Jeannine Hall Gailey is a Seattle-area writer whose first book of poetry, "Becoming the Villainess," was published by Steel Toe Books. Poems from the book were featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. She recently won a Washington State Artist Trust GAP Grant, and joined the 2008 core faculty of Centrum’s Young Artists Project. Gailey will be leading both high school and middle school workshops. Follow this link for application forms.