Lantern Review | Issue 7.2

“Japanese Shrine” by Jenna Le

Jenna Le

Japanese Shrine
Ink drawing, 2018

Amy Uyematsu

The Bachi-Bachi Buddhahead Blues

Even over-Americanized sansei like me
know about bachi—
that Japanese karma warning—
if misfortune strikes,
it's payback for wrongs
we did, or maybe crimes
by some reckless ancestor.

Examples of possible bachi
are everywhere. A kid playing
a prank on his brother, and
the next day a pigeon poops
on his head. A coach who's too
harsh with her team losing her
voice at the title match.

But can this blame game
explain every misfortune? Does
bachi explain why I got breast cancer
my first year retired? Too twisted
and cruel a Pearl Harbor bachi
forcing 120,000 of us
into barbed-wire camps.

Most JAs save
bachi “I-told-you-so”s
for less extreme events,
wondering which
of the thousand dumb things
we do today will come back
to haunt and roost.

Way back when in the old country,
bachi was a handy tool to keep
spoiled children and wandering
husbands in line. And now,
generations later, aging sansei
who hear bad news often chime
in unison, “Bachi.”

Little Tokyo hardly resembles
the J-town I went to with Grandma,
but bachi is ingrained—
Summer of the Big Bachi,
a popular sansei book title,
and a Bachi Burger joint
just down the block.

Photo of Amy Uyematsu Amy Uyematsu is a sansei poet and teacher from Los Angeles. She has five published books, including the most recent, The Yellow Door, and Basic Vocabulary. Amy was coeditor of the anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader. A former member of PAAWWW (Pacific Asian American Women Writers West), she currently leads a writing workshop at Little Tokyo's Far East Lounge. • Photo by Raul Contreras.

Photo of Jenna Le Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2018), which won second place in the Elgin Awards. She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry by the Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition. Her poetry appears in Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, and West Branch. Her visual art, including drawings and watercolors, has appeared or is forthcoming in Ad Libitum, Jubilat, and MAI. • Photo by Minhha Nguyen.

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