Day 341 – Tanko Bushi

Sunday, August 7, 2011
Day 341
2:30 pm

Tanko Bushi

Summer yukata, popsicle-stained tongues,
grilled corn and teriyaki chicken punctuate
the air,
smooth soles of slippers toughening up
against the asphalt,

From a firm stance above our heads
to a forgiving recline that reaches
toward the water,
the sun begins treading the sky
to open the dancing to the moon

The sets represent their position,
dressed in the correct shade of their
Temple’s happi coat color

Generations encircle each other,
one ring, then another and yet another,
covering the street with paper fans,
kachi kachi, laughter, and

Crackling cassette tape recording
of old records mix with the boom of
the odaiko as the flute signals with
its first whistle, and we begin

Reorientation of last year’s ritual
with songs we’ve
danced to our whole lives, missing a
step or a waving motion, giggles
circulate and we look around for
the nice kimono that knows every step

We travel through time and get lost
in the harvest, the washing of
rice, the netting of fish in the sea,
the modern leaps and twirls of
the 1+1 where the kids take their
turn at being experts of odori

We arrive at the coal mines and the
stalwart tradition of Tanko Bushi,
I get lost once more,
in the work at the
hands of our ancestors
and why this song was my grandpa’s
favorite dance

How hard he struggled to grow three
generations of farm and nursery,
the years so long you could see row
upon row of soil sowed deep into
the palm of his hand

Fingernails thick as the rocks they raked,
forehead leathery brown from the sun,
beard as silver as the moon he met
with every night to share his sake

His history urges me to dance with
them, all the spirits,
to toast them with my waving hands,
to embrace them as I net the fish,
to let them know life continues as
we twirl and laugh,
to remember them as we sway in
their footsteps,

because of their footsteps



About traciakemi

traci akemi kato-kiriyama - inter/multi-disciplinary theatre/performance artist, arts educator, cultural worker, community organizer. Tuesday Night Project; theatre, performance, writing, and teaching projects with many organizations and artists including: zero 3; Edge of The World for Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia and the National Asian American Theatre Festival in New York; "PULL" with Kennedy Kabasares in San Francisco; Nobuko Miyamoto and Great Leap Collaboratory I; TeAda; NCRR; Oymun's 11. Playwright for "Chasing Dad - a performance of a reading about a play i'm writing" presented by Inside the Ford for the Ford's Summer Playwright series. View all posts by traciakemi

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