You wouldn’t like a very hot onsen
You wouldn’t like a very hot onsen,
is what she says to let me know
she wants to bathe in a very hot onsen.
Shall we have a bath at Taiga–yu again then?
I suggest, but she doesn’t hear.
Instead, childlike, she insists.
If you don’t mind a very hot bath,
it’s better to bathe closer to the source.
I’ve taken them out, so I can’t hear.
She warns me in the changing room
about her hearing aids,
with her words hanging in mid-air
like a karaoke singer with headphones.
Here, use this.
She hands me her anti-ageing lotion to share.
It’s easier to accept than to use my own.
I thank her, and she seems to hear.
Stop by the supermarket on the way home.
On Thursdays there’s a special on sake.
She clues me in, although it’s Wednesday.
Never mind, I’m her speechless chauffeur.
Nothing I say could be of importance.
I don’t visit her often enough
to be useful to her or to my sister.
Your sister is too impatient,
is what she says to draw me closer,
but her hearing aids are still not in,
muting my attempts at nuance.
She feels safe with me in my silence.
When are you coming next?
is how she begins her homily
with her potion, an evening’s hot sake.
I’m eighty-eight now.
I live every day by the moment.
I may not be here next year.
I may even not be here tomorrow.
She threatens or maybe
just saying, too often,
that I no longer hear her
until given a moment of rest
from my mother’s demands,
and find my empty room
on an airplane back home,
I regret not listening.