TSUNAMI (Part 1) by Hillel Wright

1. Recovery (September11, 2011)

The harbor is clean
immaculate
silent

There is no damage to be seen
except some cracks
in the concrete
of the breakwater
across the bay

But that could have come
from anywhere –
a coastal freighter
dragging its mooring
in a summer typhoon.

Where is the debris –
the garbage & wreckage
of the earthquake
the flotsam & jetsam
of the killer wave?

I know the answer –
I’ve seen the trash mountain
rising out of a rice field
from the railway platform
the last stop before the end of the line
here in Oarai.

The huge Kubota traxcavators
climbing the refuse mountain
shoving, shoveling
dozering, compressing
look like Tonka Toys
in a little boy’s backyard.

This mountain is the harbor
and the waterfront
of Oarai – forty fishing boats
bent & twisted car doors
fractured windshields
houses deconstructed into muddy junk.

But the harbor now is clean
immaculate
silent…

The work of hundreds -
volunteers, patriots of Oarai
fishermen, City Hall clerks
heavy equipment operators
construction contractors
high school athletes
teachers, parents, visitors
from Tokyo & Kobe & Katmandu

And now the harbor is clean
immaculate
silent.

Then the silence cracks
breaks like a wooden house
in the jaws of the jisshin
as the Japanese call “earthquake”
as two fishing boats round the point
and enter the clean silent harbor
from the Pacific
and the muffled rumble of their engines
brings the silent immaculate harbor to life.

They are not big boats –
mid-water trawlers
4.9 ton registry
to avoid paying the higher fees
of the 5 to 10 ton fleet

They’ve been dragging for whitebait
baby sardines
which the Japanese call shirasu

They eat them raw or steamed
as topping for bowls of rice
garnished with thin yellow strips
of omelet
with pickled daikon radish
and miso shiru on the side.

Do I dare eat a serving for lunch?

I dare.
I’m served a bowl of rice with topping
the Japanese call this donburi
the topping is steamed shirasu
freshly caught
the Japanese call this dish
“shirasu don”.

It’s delicious.
The Japanese say “Umai!”

After lunch I visit the Fisheries Office
with the Town Clerk.

They apologize – they can’t give me
any data – all their records
their computers – washed away

They tell me there were 105 boats
in the fishery
29 were damaged or destroyed
or washed away

Most were fishing, out to sea
but most of those in the harbor
were damaged or destroyed
or washed away.

Today, six months on
80 boats are able to fish
but most are not fishing
they sit in the immaculate harbor
silent.