Teal Takayama (2012 Poem In Your Pocket)

The Argument

by Maryann

I cannot write a villanelle
My words buck at such a structure
I argue, fight with myself.

I read and read the examples,
pull out pen and paper. Yet
I cannot write a villanelle.

Mere doodles end up on the page
Where words should appear and flow
I argue, fight with myself.

I feel backed into a corner.
I cannot run and hide. Yet
even with the pressure,
I cannot write a villanelle.

So I shall put my arguments
down, and hope this will suffice.
I cannot write a villanelle
And tire of arguing, fighting with myself.

This poem was published in the Hawaiʻi Review Editor's Blog as part of an e-chapbook entitled WHEA YOU FROM…WHEA YOU GOING, which was produced by the residents of TJ Mahoney & Associates, a community reentry program in Honolulu.

Maryann was born in Phoenix, Arizona--a child of the desert now transplanted in paradise. She is from years behind razor wire with few outlets of expression, save for writing. She is a resident at Ka Hale Hōala Hou No Nā Wahine, a residential facility for women making the successful transition from prison back to our communities. Her dream is to continue sharing her thoughts and stories, and to reach far and wide.



by Teal Takayama

The night after his death
I went to bed in silence,
more aware of my body,
aware of every step and movement.
I could feel the action in every
solemn joint. It continued that way
for a while, I felt everything
and it was exhausting.
I’d think of that one time when
we were on the back steps,
another cold night. We were
smoking and watching the smoke
drift away above the bushes,
breathing and watching our breath fade.
Then we’d watch it all, the transient white
separating until it disappeared out
of the range of the weak streetlight.
“The way you can tell the difference,” he said,
“is that breath disappears in two seconds.”
He was right, and so for the rest of the time
I would exhale the condensation
and count it, one, two,
gone. Meanwhile he watched,
the smoke from his cigarette carried
high. Now I think about you every time
I see my breath.
I never felt as strongly as you did,
never understood what you were thinking about
when you just watched.
Years later I still don’t know, I’m still
counting breaths while you watch, somewhere,
smoking. I can see your smoke still rising
into the night, past the bushes,
past the trees, higher. Until
it has disappeared out of the light,
out of the range of my vision.
Until it is just the smoke,
separating from my breath,
rising higher, higher,
one, two, gone.

Teal Takayama is from Pearl City, Hawaiʻi. She studied writing under Lois Ann Yamanaka and attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She currently works on federal policy as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C.

  • Jen

    “Smoke” by Teal Takayama strikes a cord deep within–such truth and such beauty in the simplicity of  a moment observed. I look forward to reading more from this fine poet.

Currently Reading