Nammu, Nammu

by Hiroaki Sato

“Nammu, Nammu,” Issa wrote

adoringly of his daughter, Sato, as lisping.

No doubt Sato, in doing so,

cocked her head, just as

you did yours with bobtails,

looking at the camera

one summer day in 1974 or 75.

“Unctuous!” you’ll snort, hearing this,


oink!” you’ll grunt.

Sato would react that way too, though

smallpox killed her in 1819.

Issa wrote, when she died:

“The world of dew is, yes, a world of dew, but even so.”

Eyes exulting, neck somehow vulnerable, your face

recalls that one-year-old in a summer long past.

From That First Time: Renga on Love and Other Poems, Laurinburg, North Carolina: St. Andrew’s Press, 1988, page 27.