Kiyomi Kishaba

This is Kiyomi’s third and final year editing for Saxifrage. She is a current senior studying English Writing and Communications with a minor in Hispanic Studies. Kiyomi also works for PLU student media and the Writing Center, and is a member of the PLU swim team. In her free time she enjoys hiking, swing dancing, and eating chocolate.

Quarantine Journal

April 2020

I read an article yesterday about grief. We’re all experiencing 
grief, it said. That heavy pressure on your chest threatening
to crack through your ribs and rupture your spine is normal. 
Hundreds of thousands of people are dying, and we’re all 
mourning the loss of something. My mom told me endings 
are messy, that we don’t know we’ve lost something until
it is gone. I think about the metal joints invading the cartilage
of her hips, the deteriorated bone and tissue now removed. Could 
she feel the arthritis slowly turning her body against her, whispering
cruel words until the joint became inflamed with rage? Or did she
wake one morning to fire burning through her skin, like I once
woke to a sunburn glowing like embers across the small of my
back. I’d fallen asleep, cushioned by sand and the sound of waves 
dancing under a wandering breeze. Eyes closed, I imagined 
the burn growing up my back, entwining around my vertebrae 
and singeing the small bleached hairs decorating my skin like
ornaments. The last time I spent Christmas at my grandma’s
house my teeth were still adorned with metal braces. We visited
my grandpa in the hospice, unconscious from years of Alzheimer’s 
and a fall in the shower he couldn’t remember. Blood clotted in a corner 
of his brain like it was afraid to travel through his frail body, and when 
his fingers tightened over my hand I too was afraid. Afraid to lose a man
I loved but never really knew. Does grief feel the same as regret? My dad 
slept in the hospice and woke one night to silence, another life burnt 
out and dissipated like smoke. I heard only one death that night, but 
now I am assaulted by thousands. My rib cage shudders under the weight 
of scattered statistics as I scour words for glimmers of hope. Bloodshot 
eyes memorize charts and red arching curves that rise and fall like scorched 
sand dunes in the desert, and I wonder how we learned to grieve numbers 
instead of lives. The pressure grows in my chest and threatens to burst,
but my eyes remain wide and hungry, blinking only to stop the tears. 

Pulling Strings

A small notebook, I don’t remember
the color. It sat on the nightstand by my parents 
queen-sized bed, the one on my dad’s

side. Perched next to old 
glasses and tattered 

paperbacks, the notebook retained the scrawl 
of my father’s hand and the young 

chicken scratch of mine. I slept
in his place when he was gone

working, traveling for days 
or weeks to exotic places like India and Illinois. 

Before he left,
he wrote a little letter or two in the notebook, like a secret 

message meant only for me. In the light 
of my mom’s reading lamp, my tired 
eyes scoured his heavy 

ink, and left a note for when he returned. 
When I wrote 
in the notebook, I knew 

he could feel it, like I was pulling 
on a string attaching 
us on either end. Head full of magic 

novels, I imagined the ink 
seeping through the thin white paper, falling 

into empty space and whisked away
by wind until my words reached 
my father’s temple and leaked
into his mind. I’d fall

asleep next to the closed notebook. Pages of writing hugged 
each other in between the thick covers which reached 

over the paper to touch, like two people holding hands.