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Medical Humanities

Fukushima Prefecture

Phoebe Prioleau

At the makeshift Kawamata clinic
we sing “Jingle Bells” and “Edelweiss”
sitting cross-legged on tatami mats.
You wait your turn to be screened:
number 107—hyaku-nana, I practice.
First they’ll check your eyes and heart,
then ask if you have radiation fears.

I remind you of the American woman 
who came to your town in the Sixties
to teach English. She spoke so perfectly 
you were afraid to talk to her.
In class she showed 
The Sound of Music—its faraway, jagged mountains
not so dissimilar from your own.

Three years after the triple disaster, 
you still can’t eat wild mushrooms 
from these mountains.
You watch them grow fat 
in the contaminated soil:
shiitake, kuritake, nameko,
all so delicious in udon noodles with tempura. 

After the health screening, 
you walk back to temporary housing
with pamphlets on becquerels and sieverts 
and cesium levels in your local fish.
I promise I’ll return to Fukushima
when Soma crab is for sale at the market
and the mushrooms are good again.

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