She panics three hellosas if startled by the noiseof an empty house,calls from St. Joseph’s:the nurses are slowto start her hydration.I’m at a bar—Stevie Nicksreverbs in my beer,lures me back to the edgeof seventeen in this townI left thirty years ago.I take her call outside,stand away from the smokers,half-truth I’m at the mall.She slurs a request:milk of magnesiaand that other thing—she can’t remember.But I rememberwhen I was a boy,she told me about the mythicalJapanese custom ubasute:a grown son liftshis aged mother on his back,delivers her to a mountain,leaves her to die.I’ll come pick you upafter chemo, I sayand hang up, realizingshe’s already cradledby the mountain.The waft of cigarette smokeand hint of manurein Santa Rosa air usher meback into the restaurant.The hostess smiles,welcomes me—cluelessI have come and gone.
“Afternoon Infusion” from THE UBASUTE: by Aaron Caycedo-Kimura.
Published by Slapering Hol Press 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Aaron Caycedo-Kimura.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Aaron Caycedo-Kimura is a writer and visual artist. He is the author of two poetry collections: Ubasute, which won the 2020 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition, and the full-length collection Common Grace, forthcoming from Beacon Press in Fall 2022. His honors include a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry, a St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award in Literature, and nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets anthologies. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, upstreet, Verse Daily, DMQ Review, Poet Lore, The Night Heron Barks, and elsewhere. Aaron earned his MFA in creative writing from Boston University and is also the author and illustrator of Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life (TarcherPerigee, 2017).
“At the lucid depths of loss, as elemental as the Greek tragedies but on a personal scale and in an even tone of voice, Aaron Caycedo-Kimura’s poems in Ubasute are detailed, elegiac meditations within a particular American family. This compact, artful book evokes the eternal rhythms of grief and memory, loss and gratitude, including the evil of internment camps and the dignity of a suburban garden. Here is the restorative clarity of art.”
“In Japanese folklore, ubasute is the act of carrying an elderly parent up a mountain and leaving the person there to die. In Aaron Caycedo-Kimura’s beautiful, moving debut collection, Ubasute, the poet carries his mother and father out of memory and onto the page, but he does not set them down or let them go. He holds his parents close so we can see and hear them—as a boy in an American concentration camp, as a girl surviving the firebombing of Tokyo, as newlyweds, suburban parents, and too soon a dying father, a widow slipping away.”