The Toyama Sisters
Young and new
they arrive in Honolulu
under the dark wings of their mother,
black swan of Kyoto fleeing
a cruel husband.
Two pairs of slender legs
ripple down to ocean's edge,
nimble spines spinning into perils of blue
until the sun snatches them back.

Black silk flows like years
down Kalakaua Avenue,
flows down shoulders, arms,
hips, to fingertips.
Two halves of a shell,
the daughters tie their hair back,
pack suitcases,
study briefly
in distant cities
before they are pulled
back to their mother's white house
under the mango tree.

Evenings of guitar and wine,
honored guests gather
for sweet-rice desserts
while soft clouds of chords
massage the air like Manoa rain.

As the sisters are lulled to sleep,
the visitors rise to go.
"No, no," Mrs. Toyama pleads:
"Stay - my daughters do not mean
to be rude.
The night ghosts have taken them."

One morning,
before the first thrush,
the thread of the mother's life snaps.
A week after the funeral,

the younger daughter faints, falls
into a courtyard of plumeria trees.
Later, there are rumors -
"diabetes," "epilepsy."

Now, only the elder one is left
to harvest the fruit
while it is still green,
before it drops, orange and soft,
into lush grass.

In the evenings,
practicing with brush and ink,
she watches bones of a young bird
flutter down the parchment;
how it dips a wing into the night
and begins to fly.

Priscilla Atkins