Spring 2011, Volume 10

Poetry by Derek N. Otsuji

Landscape and Waterfowl

At the Kahuku shrimp farms, the tea green,
tea brown waters were flat and still
—though, at poignant intervals, invisible
fingers played across each teacup lake,
the tense oases’ surfaces rippling
like keystrokes in the wake of Chopin.
Balanced at the rim, black and white
pink-legged stilts quartet—achieved
a precarious elegance even as
their edgy reedy cries registered the nerve
of new bodies settling into place. Gingerly,
a night heron, now cleared of the night, prowled
at water’s edge, trawling a dim shadow;
while a calico cat, a stray, came and wove
himself in and out of our planted feet
then, slyly, giving us the slip, vanished
beneath an idle tour bus’s underbelly.
A wind displaced us with its subtle chill.
Shuddering in our skins, we felt the look
of things askew, troubled like watery reflections,
until settling back into place, we shifted
our blank gaze to a lone Hawaiian coot
adrift, bobbing to the water’s subtle weave
—a black waterfowl on a teacup lake
marked by the white stroke of his painted bill,
brooding, attuned to his environs, as if
conceiving the very calmness of the lake.
He was the queer darling of the landscape
the apple of the eye and winking sun.



BIO: Derek Otsuji teaches English at Honolulu Community College and works at Otsuji Farms, a family-run farmer's market, on the weekends. His work has appeared in Inscape and Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawaii; he won first place in the Eisteddfod Crown Competition; and has studied writing with the late Welsh poet Leslie Norris.