Monday, April 26, 2021

Ubasute: A Son's Tender Treatment of His Parents






Aaron Caycedo-Kimura wastes no time revealing what Ubasute, the title of his exquisitely produced and conceived chapbook from Slapering Hol Press means. His first poem “The Moon of Ubasute,” a reference to the 1891 Tsukioka Yoshitoshi woodblock print, opens in the voice of “his mother” telling the son that he must “carry/me up the slope/of Tanigawa” and abandon her there to die. She is old, blind and crippled. While Tanigawa is known as the mountain of death, the poet paints a landscape more in keeping with the Elysian Fields of Greek mythology. The mother says to leave her in a cradle of hakone grass, a cascading mound of slender leaves that certainly would cushion as well as please. She continues:


           …Without pity,

my son, the moon

will watch as I reach

for my mother—

Okaasan, Okaasan.

The ginkos will bow,

weep their leaves,

bury me in gold.


If the mother (and she is Okaasan too) does not ask her son to treat her with reverence, she certainly expects nature to honor, not pity, her state of being. She envisions her end buried in the golden leaves falling from the ginko trees.


With this mythological introduction, Caycedo-Kimura moves into the deaths of his parents and then back in time when they were alive. Both had hard lives. His father had been incarcerated during WWII in a Japanese internment camp by an order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his mother had suffered through the firebombing of Tokyo.


Among the Dresser’s favorite poems of Ubasute is “Memorial.” The subject matter is so surprising that she had to reread the poem to understand that the poet’s father had been an accomplished gymnast, something the son never knew.


Straight as steel, hands on hips,

Dad balances like a hood ornament

on Irving Wasserman’s head.


The email from Wasserman to the poet requests a reunion with the father who had already been dead seven years.


                              … He calls my father

remarkable—a word I never heard

used to describe him. But yes, look.


There he is. Poised in the air,

the husband who never cheated,

the father who never struck me.


Just as the die-cut cover reveals a fragment of Yoshitoshi woodblock print underneath, Caycedo-Kimura reveals just enough for the reader to understand the weight of a son’s love for his parents. The pacing of each line is a testimony to his tender regard which is never sentimental. This is a book you will want to hold in your hands and carefully turn each page.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

For the Love of Opera and RBG


Through all the activities the Dresser has been immersed in she hasn’t let go of “For the Love of Opera: Celebrating RBG’s 88th Birthday” presented March 15, 2021. The moving tribute paid to Ruth Bader Ginsburg was presented by Opera Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History (a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate), and the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience. The hour and 16 minute program includes favorite arias of RBG, performed by outstanding young talent, and people who knew her or who had observed her attending opera in such places as Glimmerglass in New York state or Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center. The video of the program can be seen at


The program begins with tenor Joshua Blue singing “Una furtive lagrima” from L’eslisir d’amore by Donizetti. As the surtitles flash this “furtive tear welled up in her eye” and the Dresser could picture and viscerally feel the emotion that RBG felt in hearing this song being sung but such an artful singer like Joshua Blue. The Dresser had seen the Chief Justice at the Kennedy Center on many occasions.


Soprano Ashley Marie Roilard sings the second aria: “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini. The sweetness of Roilard’s singing is remarkable for ability to relax the listener even as one strains with yearning that the performance does not stop too soon.


All of the musical presentations are like this. Between the arias we hear from RBG’s adult children, singers like baritone Norman Garret, opera director Francesco Zambello. The stories reveal so many intimate moments between RBG and these important people who made her long life worth living. Threaded through the talk is how justice and opera were interwoven in the Chief Justice’s life.


Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this thoughtful and moving program.