On Yuki Tanaka’s “Evidence of Nocturne”

from “Evidence of Nocturne”

Whatever is singing above, come down.
Drink a lake from my eyes, fever and azaleas

both thriving on the shore.
Don’t eat when your mouth is dry—

even a scrap of bread makes you bleed.

Yuki Tanaka’s Séance in Daylight

Surreal? An image collage? The intersections of thought and imagination? A love letter? “Evidence of Nocturne” moves from image to image and trembles with feeling and resonance. The poem’s careful silences give readers time to contemplate, imagine, and willingly reread. But which of Tanaka’s images to dwell on, when so many are lovely?

Drink a lake from my eyes, fever and azaleas / both thriving on the shore. The poem smoothly reimagines the speaker as a physical, geographical space, but at the same time suggests the hallucinatory. A lake meaning tears? Hidden depths? A reservoir? Fever meaning illness or more passion? And by azaleas, does the speaker want to suggest only their loveliness or the encyclopedic symbolism assigned to them? And what of the juxtaposition of fever and azaleas? Only fourteen words, and yet the image expands. Every detail evokes alternative possibilities. But Tanaka’s words also evoke tenderness: Drink a lake from my eyes. His poem calls to an unseen entity, invites connection, and then reveals the larger spaces inside the body’s container. Drink a lake from my eyes. The words direct, but they also suggest that human thirst that cannot be slaked by the kitchen faucet or the local coffeeshop.

Yuki Tanaka, “Evidence of Nocturne,” from Kenyon Review 40 (Sept/Oct) 2018: 5.