Japanese in Three Weeks

A new poem

by B. Alexandra Szerlip

—taken verbatim from Japanese in Three Weeks: Daily Conversation Made Easy, circa 1935

I have loved you from the very beginning.
You are priceless above all pearls to me.
All night long I dream of you.

I would gladly go with you to the end of the world.
Each parting is a grief unspeakable.
Another kiss before you go. Let loose your beautiful hair.

Here is my passport.
My name is _______________.
I have no business here.
Have the kindness to give me 100 yen.

I do not sleep well. My tongue is coated.
I have pains in my loins. I cannot see
distant objects. What am I to drink
when I am thirsty?

You have kept me waiting for an hour.
Why do you move so slowly?
Where does this road lead to?
Will you show me the way?

Make a parcel of these things.
It is very urgent. I will pay you for the trouble.
Where are we now?
Is this not the way to Kanda?

How long ought I to remain in the bath?
I cannot bear any more, I want to dress.

I leave in the morning. Please
have my letters forwarded to Shanghai.
I leave everything in your care. Wait for me.

You are hurting me. Please brush my hair.
I shall put on my black silk dress.
Is there nothing missing?
What does it all come to?

Give me a glass of brandy.
I am in a hurry. Please be quick.
This room is frightfully hot.
Give me cucumbers.
Give me oysters.

Will this letter go tonight? How long
will it take? Are you going to stuff it
with cement?
I wish to visit the Imperial Palace.
I will call here again at five o’ clock.
There’s no telling what will happen.

B. Alexandra Szerlip’s article on Norman Bel Geddes appeared in the Believer’s May 2012 issue. A two-time N.E.A. Writing Fellow, Szerlip is also a sculptor; her work will be part of a three-person show mounted by the San Francisco Center for the Book later this year.

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