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Kimiko Hahn

[Things That Give an Unclean Feeling]

after Sei Shongaon 


Hats in hat shops.


His laptop and the word “lap”


Subway poles. Light switches and switch-plates, doorknobs, refrigerator handle, leash, keys. Also his old photo album.


His office phone, even the cord.




I can’t understand people who have dirty kitchen sinks.  This is where one washes dishes and rinses vegetables.  So often even an empty sink is gray with grime, whether porcelain or metal.  The faucet handles as well.


The pigeon cooing every morning.  I think it has nested on the windowsill under the air conditioner that we did not remove in the fall.  It will not scare away.  I can hear the cooing even from our bedroom.


A sandbox.  And small children in general.


Files—goes without saying.  I mean, flies.




The Problem with Dwarfs



Astronomers severely undercount

the stars in the universe partly due to dwarf stars


in “bobbly and elliptical” galaxies.

K. Chang describes the latest technique


to count things one cannot see:


“Because the dwarfs are cooler,

the fingerprints of certain colors they emit and absorb


is different from that of larger stars.”  The numbers matter

in studying how galaxies formed and grew over eons.


My view on dwarf stars involves my mother-in-law

who, before I married her son, described my height as such


to dissuade him from marrying me (or anyone). No matter

that others considered me a kind of star—adjuncting at an Ivy—


or that large women resemble bobbly transvestites

which I didn’t say since I tend to keep my little mouth shut,


making my opinions known, elliptically.   In any case,

compared to giants, dwarfs are cooler.







Mother loved to unfold and smooth out

the red- and black-veined sheet on her lap,


revealing shortcuts

so she and Dad could scour every flea market and collectables shop


for Occupied Japan figurines—

a dedicated search but open for a find


as if each grid were one of a zillion slivers of the brain,

sliced, dyed, set on silicon,

abruptly illuminating where consciousness lives.







Greater than dopamine is the gamer’s attraction

to “flow,” that state of focus for athlete and musician


as well as a little girl dog-paddling to Grandpa Aaron

because, according to the study of facial expressions,


the gamer makes her own immediate flow


whether over cross-bow or bazooka or metallic-pink laser.


Sparkly lipstick.  The undead, most certainly.

A good way to fail over and over

 and persist because


“one of the most profound transformations we can learn from games

is how to turn the sense that someone has ‘failed’


into the sense that they ‘haven’t succeeded yet.’”  Ah, fierce pride:


whether diving head-first, performing Shoki solo,

leaf-letting on Wall Street before breakfast,

or teaching Emily Dickinson to one-hundred undergrads.

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