Poetry: Brandon Shimoda


A stone resembles
A woman in white
Paused in a circle of heat
Is a man

Looking into the mirror, the mirror of stone
Could see the man as a woman
In white touching
The man

Some mirrors unpolished
Once reflective but aged into
Their reflections

In the old days, when the sea covered
The land
White paper was placed
On the reef

Paper and God, Kami—Shirakami
Meaning a white god worshipped
Woman and man
By the shape of their heads

Not perfect until they realize
They are praying
To whom? To what
Absolutely resembles?


A man

His hunger



Heaven’s contract with

As a sentry
Or invisible

Fossil mammal


Night parting
From the side

Of the heart where
The verse is

I am

A girl
After all

The girls
Is what I

Said, I mean that
That is

I told them

(written at night in Japan, 2011-2012)

Shirakami Shrine is at the intersection of Peace Boulevard and Rijo-dori in Hiroshima City. Shira is white, kami are divine spirits and, depending on the character, paper. Peace and Rijo-dori was once a reef projecting into the bay. White paper decorated the reef to warn incoming ships. Brandon, in Teutonic, means, from the beacon hill. I often shorten that to mean,beacon. In August 2011, I visited, with the poet Dot Devota, Hiroshima. It was the first time I visited since the 1980s. On the sidewalk outside Shirakami, a young man, a photographer, stopped a young woman to ask if he could take her picture. The young woman’s face was strikingly white; she had painted her skin with white make-up. Where was she going? Was she an actress? Her face was a mask. Was she a reef-spirit? She quietly obliged. The young man took her picture. We spent a week in Hiroshima. We slept on futons in the apartments of two young men we’d met online. Each night before sleep, I wrote poems in a tiny notebook I bought in Tainan, Taiwan the month before. We were in Japan for a month. I wrote 100 poems. Was the woman a ghost? We were in Japan visiting places relevant to my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ lives. My grandfather was a photographer, though it was the woman with whom I identified. What was she hiding? Even still, she shared her face with the man.

Brandon in Berlin, with JMW, 2013Brandon Shimoda is the author of four books, including Portuguese (Octopus Books & Tin House) and O Bon (Litmus Press). The poems appearing here are from a collection written in Death Valley and Japan, with the working title, Evening Oracle. All of the above include cameos by food and old women. Born in California, Brandon has lived most recently in Arizona, Taiwan, and Missouri. See also: related poems in recent installments of BOMBlog and diode.