Deflated Rubber Turkey

Sawako Nakayasu
There is one atop each of the Girls’ heads. Clearly they have been playing this game for a while. There is only one girl whose turkey is still full of air, and that girl is Girl D. The game is called Duck, Duck, Turkey. They go through the motions of having an “it,” and having that “it” walk around the outside of the circle of sitting girls, tapping them on their turkey heads while saying, “duck, duck, duck, duck...” until they say “turkey!” while hitting the turkey on the head of a girl and then running around the circle, trying to sit down in the open spot in the circle before getting tagged. The general stance over here is based on the unshakeable belief that playing this game is going to lead to a better, more just society for all, once everybody’s turkey is equally deflated. And although most of the turkeys are, indeed, mostly deflated, none of the girls can keep themselves from glancing furtively at the head of Girl D, her hair positively radiant in the light bouncing off of the almost fully inflated rubber turkey on her head. How can this be? What is wrong with everyone else’s turkey? Did Girl D get a refill? Or more air than others to begin with? Is that really a turkey? Maybe Girl D’s turkey is not made out of rubber like the rest. What if the rubber turkey of Girl D was filled with turkey? 

More by Sawako Nakayasu

Swimming in the Presence of Lurid Opposition

Summer camp, swim class, Tokyo, a group of no more than twenty ants all donning their respective swimming caps, some with images of their favorite anime characters printed on the fabric. Forward progression, assisted by a rhythmic movement of ant limbs, just like the instructor instructed, forward forward progress, forward forward progress. The slowness, agonizing slowness of such, such poor swimmers these ants, most likely in the beginner class for sad ants with little ability. And then the However, the Big But, the Truth that reveals itself only after zooming out and away from what used to be a close-up shot of ants in an unusually colored swimming pool, such as red or green or pale fuchsia or celadon, the distance revealing the inherent difficulty of making a swimming pool out of a still-wet oil painting, the artist and brush hovering nearby like the evil clouds that they are.

Morning Song

Every time, these days, it seems, an equation gets forced. Forged:

                  far cry
                  ______

                  low rise


                                and every morning sticks, figure A, for alas, stick figures, it
figures that we awaken in the same rectangle at different points on the time
line, these every days the sum of all our


                                                        angles, a beyond-complementary
rate, exceeding three hundred sixty, then three hundred sixty-five, three
hundred seventy

                        days, and angles, a supersaturated moon. Also it is morning
and I am far

                  from and I cry.


                                        The last ditch grows deeper and I stuff the
world into a quadratic of words, for example:              But-I-love-you.
       Place-in-the-box.         Pass-the-god-damn-butter.
                 That's four against three.                    Far against which cry.

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Value

            (from Home Economics—for Wendell Berry)

In those days all shops were called Ma This or Mister That.
One shop my mother used to send me to was called Ma Branch.
i’d go, playing with my shadow all the way,
trying to outrun it on the Methodist church wall,
dodging it away from other feet—or suddenly stopping it,
chanting my list meanwhile so i would not forget:
1/2 lb. saltfish, 1/4 bottle oil, 4p. keg butter, 1 blue soap, 2 cough drops
over and over till i reached the shop.

Of the two ladies selling, i liked the tall, dark, gleaming one
whose face i later recognised in Benin sculpture.
She would set the things down one by one:
gold, blue, lemon, dark-white speckled shapes, smells, rustlings of paper
until i had a heap of pirate’s treasure on the wooden counter.
Then she would slip the pencil from her hair,
tear off a piece of shop paper, make a rope ladder of figures
and i would watch the pencil climb, drop, climb, drop.

Ma Branch didn’t sell; she sat down, buxom and comfortable as a barrel
amidst a larger treasure heap of bags and boxes, packages, cans,
not missing a thing, collecting money, talking with customers.
Some women came with notebooks and no money — regulars:
“Ma Branch, on Friday when the man get pay....”
and sometimes a child, whose mother couldn’t write,
would speak up, too loudly: “Ma Branch, my mother say...”

Ma Branch had a miraculous set of balances in her head
in which she weighed each separate request
unhurriedly. No one ever took her for granted. Yet
i never saw her do otherwise eventually
than bob her head, to one side, to a shop lady
then nod, once, the other side, to an expectant customer.
By some commonly held scale of values, now so strange,
she gave all of them credit.
Fascinated, i’d hand over my money, wait for change
then race back past the church wall, followed by my shadow.

Years afterward, when seeking the darker shadow brought me home,
i heard that she had died.
There is a super-market on that spot now — it’s larger, well-arranged.
But it can’t fill the space she occupied.