At a party held in a home in Nara,
my host mother wraps a lilac yukata
around my form.
The obi cuts into my thick waist
so I can’t breathe.
“No,” but yes, but too polite.
I smile for cameras left and right.
They pass matcha from one to another to me.
I discover green tea tastes well paired
with Kit Kats and gummy treats.
After an hour playing at tea ceremony,
host mother tells me,
“It’s a gift.”
I carry it with me across the sea,
then back again
to the rice fields of Itako.
I arrive in summer at a time for fireworks
I wear the yukata at the riverside
to watch children run with sparklers
and at shrines to light vigil candles.
I walk over Ibaraki’s roads
cracked in the middle
like gaping asphalt wounds.
My clacking wooden shoes tread
with careful steps
between laughter and tears.
In summer, we musume walk
together in an iris park.
The blooms of pale purple mingling
with white petals beside them
atop long green stalks
seem brushed by an artist
instead of planted by hands.
When sunshine hits the river right,
all the fields glisten.
We stroll as we chat, as we sing, as we laugh,
forming friendships fast.
Our yukata were vibrant violet iris
patterned to nearly blend in with the scenery
if not for the bright navy
between the dyed flowers.
As the leaves fall,
I fold the fabric as instructed.
I place the gifts into a box
reverent as I put them up high.
we will wander again
and weave memories
into the seams.