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Joanna Want



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.