My Darling Niki

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I chose to write a poem for my creative response to the novel A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I really enjoyed the novel but with all that happened in between the lines, it was a challenge for me to fully process the whole story, both what was said and unsaid. I wound up reading the novel twice (and listening to the audio book once) to fully wrap my head around it.

When I’m feeling highly emotional or confused, I like to write poetry to help me work through my thoughts and feelings. Since poetry can be somewhat nonlinear and ambiguous, writing it helps me draw my focus both inward and outward simultaneously. By that I mean I can sort of feel the topic in a less structured or organized start-to-finish type way but more so in an all-around big picture type way before diving deeper into the nitty-gritty of it.

For this project, poetry helped me process my feelings about the heavy themes (i.e.: murder, depression, abuse, war, loss, destruction, death…). I lean toward light humor when I write so tackling something so dark was interesting for me. Creating a poem allowed me to work my way through the darkness. It also helped me process what Ishuguro wrote and what he didn’t write. The novel itself was nonlinear, like poetry, and it quickly became addictively confusing and, at times, I struggled to fully understand it. I think that was Ishuguro’s intention because just when I thought I grasped what was happening, something would change. For example, at one point the tense and POV shifted entirely and that caused me to lose my footing. Prior to that I thought one thing (that Etsuko was telling a story about an old friend, Sachiko) and after I thought something different entirely (that Etsuko and Sachico are the same person). At that point I knew I had to reread the novel to make sure I didn’t misunderstand entirely what had happened and to catch whatever else I was sure I’d missed. So much was left unwritten and unrevealed in the story that poetry allowed me to work comfortably through the confusion and ambiguity until I eventually arrived at the heart of what I think actually happened. It also gave me the opportunity to fully process the many feelings the author and his story gave me.

The poem is titled “My Darling Niki” and my intention was to write it from the main protagonist Etsuko’s point of view as though she was processing her feelings and writing to her only surviving daughter, Niki. I used elements from the novel itself to pull it together.

My Darling Niki:
It’s so strange
How the brain
Triggers dreams
Tramples truth

Grief does strange things to the mind

When the bomb fell
Hope exploded
Life imploded
My thoughts shifted

Split entirely in two

There was nothing left
In that wretched place
But pain breeding pain
And death breeding death

Helpless… hopeless… less and less

No one left to love me
No place for children so
I chose death to end their
Suffering and my own

I wasn’t the only one.

But fate had other plans
With blood still on my hands
I got another chance
To be a good mother

But it was too late for her

Your sister witnessed death
I looked up and saw her
Standing, waiting her turn
But her gaze changed my mind

Those eyes looked into my soul

I wished they wouldn’t have
For she suffered slowly
Like kittens left to starve
When drowning’s more humane

I knew she’d never be happy

I vaguely recall a
Time when I was happy
When I lied to myself
Waiting for a better life

I met your father, then I

We decided to start over
Leave pain and death behind
One world for another
But they followed me here

We thought our love would fix it

I ran off and played house
When I should’ve saved her
The rope around her neck
Was the one I gave her

New life suggests new hope but

We blamed her for the pain
When it wasn’t her fault
She’s a victim, like you,
Like me, products of war

With infinite destruction

The dead have it easy
Those who remain are left
To pick up the pieces
Or hide them behind doors

Your sister’s Purgatory

My Love, it’s a riddle
You’ll never comprehend
For there are two of me
And too many of you

Too many secrets to hide

I have the answers to
The questions you won’t ask
Hidden deep but instead
You request a postcard

Of a place you’ve never been

A picture for a friend?
You say you’re proud of me
Now how can you be proud
When you don’t know the truth

And you won’t let me tell you?

If I told you my truth
Would you even hear me?
If you could see my soul
Would you follow her lead?

Could you ever forgive me?

The nightmares never stop
Lifeless child on a swing
Body dangling from a bridge
Noose tied around her neck

Madness sets in to save me

Memories loop my mind
Dreams and lies intertwine
Make me confess, repent,
Absolve me of my sins!

Unconditional love is

What I took from them
And gave to you but
If you knew the truth
Would you hate me, too?

More so than I hate myself?

My darling Niki,
I’ve lost it all
But somehow you’re
Still here with me

Doesn’t that mean something?

Please don’t leave
Me alone
In this house
With nothing

But a pale view of the hills.

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