The komoris' eyes fix the camera
and in the straining double bandoliers' hump
the babies shaven heads strain
The body dares not face the camera
The frontal posture is not for the servant
heads turned bent regards meek and in stress
hair hastily gathered in the dark
now straggly with their loads
and in the eked-out smiles
the years of sleeplessly fading pallid faces
the rough cotton kimono
drab thick resistant to baby-faeces and crachat
And in their stilted sandals
their meagre dignity in a stoop
the bare adolescent feet still showing
Whose mothers are whose children?
"KOMORI is a generic term that consists of a noun, ko (a child), and a verb, moru (to protect or to take care of); Japanese use it to refer to any person, male or female, old or young, who takes care of children. (...) Like their European counterparts, nursemaids and nannies, komori began to appear in what Michel Foucault has called the "discourse of power" in the late nineteenth century..."
from Mariko Asano Tamanoi's "Songs as Weapons: The Culture and History of Komori (Nursemaids) in Modern Japan", in The Journal of Asian Studies, 50, no.4 (November 1991): 793-817.
© T.Wignesan March 9, 1992
[from the collection : longhand notes: a binding of poems. Paris: 1999]
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