Clippings of Kanji

by Terry Dassow

In hallways stacked like blocks
Japanese teens
trade wordless half-thoughts beneath the words mo iiyo.

whistles in window cracks
from Akagi and Myogi,
cracking the white noise

A chime.
Youth salute teachers, stand, sit,
open textbooks, break pencil lead
in neat rows of close-quartered desks.

Weightless characters drift upwards.
Chunks of words
get caught in oscillating fans
positioned above pencil cases, name tags,
pericura, clear files, and barrettes.

Clippings of kanji fall from the static.
Someone takes apart a pen.
Students exchange glances.

Letters appear along dark strands of hair.
—three years—
attempts a futile escape to
mountain ranges beyond the glass.

The teacher jerks around.

Beads of salt drag across
foreheads, arms, backs.
Teens crouch over notebooks,
pull silence over themselves,
take apart another pen.

A chime.
Bits of fallen sentences
drift across the floor.
Haruna winds stretch palms
pick up static, split letters, and punctuation
to offer to the children.

Terry Dassow teaches English at Tsukasawa Junior High School in Takasaki. Her poetry has appeared in AJET Connect Magazine and she is a co-founder of Gunma Poets Guild. She recently became the web and design editor of Speakeasy Journal and manages the teaching site ALT+ALT Scene at