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Richard Oyama

What I do not think

Girl at the Beach by Edvard Munch

I do not think this.  At 7-11 a girl wore pink bunny ears and pajama shorts that hitched along the circumference of her bottom. It is good to feel nothing. I do not think this. ‘If it is true that there is no greater sorrow than to remember a happy time in a state of misery, it is just as true that calling up a moment of anguish in a tranquil mood, seated quietly at one desk, is a source of profound satisfaction.’ I think of time as erasure.

There was a meadow of Monterey pine, butterflies and pampas grass at Point Reyes. She and I switchbacked down the trail. The dunes opened out onto a horizonless sea. Spread the bamboo mat, black forest ham on rye, carrot and celery sticks, oatmeal cookies, a thermos of bancha tea. See a black shape bobbing, disappearing. A rock outcropping. A wet-suited diver plunging for mussels like pearls. Pick our way to the end of a lichen-encrusted spit. The sea boiled and hissed. Kelp waved its long hands. I remember we kissed. What one does on a scarp. Gulls dropped from the air, savaging half-eaten sandwiches, a bag of chips, leavings.  –O.J., get way from round there. Wind blew the bags across the sand. I do not think of the potter’s field on Hart Island. The unclaimed dead are interred there. On the backroad home you quote a Godard film: the sadness of Sunday afternoon. A day in the country was not unimaginable then.

Away! Away! The spell of arms and voices: the white arms of roads.

The quotation in the first paragraph is from The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. The closing is borrowed from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce.


About the writer:
Richard Oyama’s poems, stories and essays have appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, About Place, Konch Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain, Tribes, Malpais Review, Anak Sastra, Buddhist Poetry Review and other literary journals. The Country They Know (Neuma Books 2005) is his first collection of poetry. He has a M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Oyama taught at California College of Arts in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley, and University of New Mexico. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming. He is currently at work on a young adult novel and a full-length poetry collection.

Image: Girl at the Beach by Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Aquatint with scraper and drypoint on zinc. No size specified. 287 × 218 mm (image/plate); 445 × 310 mm (sheet). 1896. Public domain.

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