Tai-otochi & Railfanning


Image courtesy of velo_city (flickr.com)

Image courtesy of velo_city (flickr.com)

we are called up to the mat two by two
and bow, kneeling, at the edges of the ring
at two feet apart we bow standing,
shake hands

here we learn after months of repetition
how to link moves
like threads in the tapestry of this night

we are sparring to prove ourselves, to show off
to the audience with colored belts
who call out names of throws in japanese

tai-otochi, oo-ochi gari
we pay them no heed, because on the mat
we are here to find ourselves
connecting our thoughts to our limbs

we are groping in the darkness
of a fully-lit judo dojo
for a soul

when we bow into the room
while we bow to the senseis
even as we throw each other, and pin each other, we are still.

we are concentrated
here, here in this dojo
where everyone else is, too –

it started
when we were here
to shape ourselves

to mould our straight fingers and toes
until they were whittled by the strength
that comes from night after night

of throwing our partner until they lie by our feet
carving out thought patterns
that bury emotion, uncovering it only
to soften the blows

we are still teaching ourselves
that beyond our textbook expertise
there is another knowledge –

the understanding of quiet
entering the dojo, a silent union
between sensei and pupil

the comprehension of loud
because without loud energy taken from
your partner, there is no way to throw

we are here, grounded
in a world that needs grounding,
in a world that needs to be quiet in order to listen to itself yelling

as we fight, there is peace.

sensei says ippon
when i am lying on my back gasping for breath
and she has won

but it doesn’t ache like it does
after a wrestling match
because i have proven myself, found myself, stretched myself.


we are eye-deep in uncut grass
a couple of inches behind the
do not enter sign

i am sitting, neck curled
down to write my novel
in the silence behind the parking lot

you lie in the grass
sheltering your eyes from the hot sun
with a math binder, no longer needed

Image courtesy of Jamie Anderson (flickr.com)

Image courtesy of Jamie Anderson (flickr.com)

exams are over
and you have invited me to
watch trains, a prospect

that becomes even more trite
when i realize that you are
not, in fact, watching trains

you are listening for them and
until you hear the click-clack
you are taking a little repose

i start doodling in the margins of
my notebook, flowers, multiplications,
intricate bubble letters

click-clack click-clack
you open your eyes
and sit upright abruptly

leaf your fingers through the pages
of your almanac until you find that train and
record the time

when you have run into the sunset
trying to catch it, spotting its numbers
on the engine

you come back
lie down
shelter your eyes from the hot sun

you pass time by telling me
facts about the trains
and suddenly my character is travelling by rail

Eva formal photoEva Rodrigues is a teen writer whose previous publications have appeared in Teen Ink and Stone Soup. She was the winner of the 2011 A&E Lives That Make a Difference national essay contest and enjoys writing, reading, and more writing.

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