"Sibling Stichomythia"

Hideko Sueoka

Hideko Sueoka is a Japanese poet and translator living in Tokyo while working as a business translator. She has learned English poetry from teachers and translators living in Japan and has attended ARVON workshops and others in the UK, Portugal, and the US. Her debut poetry chapbook, Untouched Landscape, was published by Clare Songbirds Publishing House (US) in 2018, and recent poems are published in the magazines Anthropocene, Harana Poetry, Porridge, Losslit, amberflora, and White Enso; the zine stay home diary; and the anthologies The Forward Book of Poetry 2015 (Faber & Faber) and Arrival at Elsewhere (Against the Grain Press).

“‘Sibling Stichomythia’ was written in response to Diane Arbus’s photo Identical Twins (1966). This portrait of Cathleen and Colleen gives viewers strangeness, and the poem shows its strong impression through a conversation between Arbus and her brother, the poet Howard Nemerov. It is the strangeness of the photo, rather than the innocence of the children, that captures those who see it.”

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     Diane: I show a shot of Cathleen and Colleen to you.
     Howard: Fine, stiff twins with no filial smiles, with broken likeness.
     Diane: I was in limbo, limbo, then the girls, my subjects appeared.
     Howard: You focused on deep, asleep darkness of the ingénues.
     Diane: A cawing flock came, then lightning was coming down.
     Howard: This shot is over haiku that’s often told as one photo.
     Diane: No idea. Stop the moment of their loquacious talk.
     Howard: Innocuous, but not bland. Do you like this work?
     Diane: I don’t know, at least not-mawkish, I went further, deeper.
     Howard: Their hidden masks were revealed. Do you like this work?
     Diane: I don’t know. I demolished a shiny world, I know.
     Howard: Meritorious. It reminds me of poems by Sylvia Plath.
     Diane: My feeling’s been murky. So much might be on the verge.
     Howard: Your light is salvation. Hunting, it is a threshold, escape.

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