komori

 

 

 

The komoris' eyes fix the camera

from around

and in the straining double bandoliers' hump

the babies shaven heads strain

 

 

The body dares not face the camera

The frontal posture is not for the servant

 

heads turned bent regards meek and in stress

hair hastily gathered in the dark

now straggly with their loads

 

 

and in the eked-out smiles

the years of sleeplessly fading pallid faces

 

the rough cotton kimono

drab thick resistant to baby-faeces and crachat

 

 

And in their stilted sandals

their meagre dignity in a stoop

 

the bare adolescent feet still showing

 

 

Whose mothers are whose children?

 

 

 

Notes

 

"KOMORI is a generic term that consists of a noun, ko (a child), and a verb, moru (to protect or to take care of); Japanese use it to refer to any person, male or female, old or young, who takes care of children. (...) Like their European counterparts, nursemaids and nannies, komori began to appear in what Michel Foucault has called the "discourse of power" in the late nineteenth century..."

from Mariko Asano Tamanoi's "Songs as Weapons: The Culture and History of Komori (Nursemaids) in Modern Japan", in The Journal of Asian Studies, 50, no.4 (November 1991): 793-817.

 

 

T.Wignesan March 9, 1992

 

[from the collection : longhand notes (a binding of poems), 1999]