Poetry | ‘For Yoshiko Uchida’, ‘Pumping Gas in Central Point, Oregon’ by Zack Rogow | Issue 42, March 2023

For Yoshiko Uchida

Not long after World War II,
when Japan was still rebuilding
its cities and its identity,
the young American writer Yoshiko Uchida
went back to the country of her parents’ birth
to study the great potter, Shoji Hamada.

One day, watching the agèd potter glaze
a ripe red line near the lip
of a new black bowl, she asked,
“Master Hamada, why
don’t you ever sign your pots?
You have so many imitators.
How are they going to tell your work
apart in the future?”

Hamada stared at his bowl. “My worst work
will be attributed to my imitators.”
He gazed at the young woman
through his circular spectacles
with their round, black rims.
“Their best work will
be attributed to me.”


Pumping Gas in Central Point, Oregon

Excuse me, sorry, state law!
You can’t pump the gas yourself here in Oregon.
Should I top it off with premium?

See from your plates you’re from California.
You’ve collected enough bugs on that windshield
to start a museum. I’ll clean it for you.

You here for Shakespeare?
Lotta people drive up for the festival.

Where you from in California?
Really? I was born right near there,
before the yuppies and the hipsters moved in
and the prices zoomed.
So I moved up here.
Plenty of folks in Oregon
hair as gray as mine.

Don’t speed, now.
The cops don’t even bother
with sirens anymore.
They pop a picture
and the ticket arrives in the mail
like you ordered it online.

Shouldn’t chew your ear off.
You got someplace to go.

Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
You know I used to pump gas
when I was a teenager.
Never thought I’d still be doing that
at my age.

Zack Rogow is author, editor, or translator of more than twenty books or plays. His ninth book of poems, Irreverent Litanies, was published by Regal House. His play Colette Uncensored ran in London and San Francisco. He serves as a contributing editor for Catamaran Literary Reader. His degrees of are from Yale University and the City University of New York. www.zackrogow.com

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