The child points to her head
when her father whispers kokoro.
Amazed, the father gestures to his heart:
“Kokoro is here.” The daughter speaks
English at school, Japanese at home.
Father and daughter, suspended
in a moment of translation.
There is no word for the mind
that rests inside the heart
in English. There is no way
—no time—to learn such a word
at school, racing against the clock
to etch answers to multiplication tables
on to paper with pale blue lines
before the teacher’s bell rings,
pencils down. Only time to steal
a quick look out the window
at the afternoon’s grey sky,
to remember during another spelling test
that i before e except after c means
receive is spelled r-e-c-e-i-v-e.
While the girl is at school, the father sits
at his own desk translating Dogen:
The mind is mountains, rivers,
and the great earth;
the sun, the moon, and stars.
The world waits to be translated—
by the heart’s unbroken beating, the rivers
always moving to some greater body
of water, the tongue always playing
catch up, searching as it does
for a word to name the space between us.
Joanna Lin Want lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and daughter. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, The Aurorean, Indiana Review, JAC and others.