Naoko Fujimoto

Hyperbolic Doorbells

The Japanese immigrants knocked on the door
in California, in the 1940s.

Their mothers and fathers moved from Osaka
during the gold rush,
and they were all already Americans,
but they left their houses to others during World War II.

They did not have to be Japanese,
they might be African Americans
running away from sugarcane plantations,
or Jews in Germany                            or pests…

—either way,
if this happens now,
am I going to open the door to hide them?

            Inside a washing machine, lid closed,
            between my heavy winter coats, under a dresser,
            any space in which to crouch down,
            like folded origami cranes.

If I have them in the house, how can I lie?
Officers, I have nothing to hide here,
opening my jacket like a pervert

—who would not resist a naked
woman in her 30s; though,

am I willing to do so?
            Am I willing?—with these two raisins on a burdock root
            (what my Grandmother sketched).

Truthfully, I don’t know
I can open the door,

listening to the desperate doorbells
and shaking my two silver bells on the wreath.

We all know historically what happens next when I open the door.
My hand grips the knob as socks scuff the wool rug.

Can we afford this future, again—
keep out                      mice, for example;

we turn on our lamps like a Halloween night,
neighborhood kids knock for chocolates,
and they only lick the strawberry coatings. Frostings drop,
hardened candies—
nails scrape the concrete.

When the mouse nest is found behind the kitchen cabinet,
I inject poison into the narrow passage.

Mice and humans are supposed to be different.
But sometimes humans are treated like animals
to be removed
and posted on a billboard;

more like Have You Caught and Killed?
This future Anne Frank—

if she is knocking on the door,
do I let her in?

                                                                        I don’t want to;
because I do not want to answer it.

I want to
borrow an excavator to tear the billboard down.
Can you tie a knot on the pole for me?
I want to know if you have extra thick gloves,
the steel rope hurts bare palms.   
                   But if you are not with me,

I want to know if you are worshiping the billboard instead,
or if I am the person cheering the billboard, too.

If I do not notice it from the highway
driving as fast as I can
wondering in my own mind,               then what—
what am I missing—
a carrier pigeon, a truth for my own decision?

Someone hides in a narrow pit like a mouse.
Someone hates them like the plague.

Outside my Japanese door,
I fell in love with a man from Busan,
                                             from Beijing,
                                             from Manila…

not knowing the truth that I believed had multiple layers;

like August Fifteenth is
the quietest, most sorrowful day in Japan, but Asian countries celebrate the liberation.

Liberation from the war—yes,

liberation from the Japanese colonization—yes.
I am beginning to realize carrier pigeons had never
reached my school more than seventy years after the war.

Long ago, I did not speak much English;
neither did the man;                though,            we held hands.
It was my very first time to hold male fingers between mine.

He decorated his apartment for language school students.
Our dishes occupied one wobbling table.

That night, people buzzed the doorbell, and placed plates on plastic cloths.
We spilled more than enough beer in front of the door.
Cigarette butts rolled between our history
from the past to the future, and

we all saw a mouse caught
in the trap and heard it’s shriek.