Stephanie Karlik

Home Is

Home is where photos of Tokyo at night hang.

Home is where my wooden Patagonian tablas for fiambres y quesos rest.

Home is where little green plants grow out of gourds and planters.

Home is where my Cholula is.

Home is where the evening sky becomes a purpley, yellow-orange haze for the window gazer.

Home is where my mate gourd sits unused, awaiting my Argentine homestay sister’s arrival.

Home is where the fridge is stocked with kale, oranges, and a hunk of parmesano reggiano.

Home is where feng shui texts sit, next to a Chinese compass and an architect’s ruler.

Home is where Astor Piazzolla, Flying Lotus, and Lisa Shaw sounds reverberate.

Home is where the palo santo burns.


city of fair winds

pizza was consumed after 10 pm,

phone calls to friends were made after 11 pm,

coffee was drunk after 2 am,

and nobody died,


they thrived,

in the city of fair winds.


You missed golden hour again, but I captured it for you.

Benkyou Chuu

photo 1

Not a bit of mianqiang in her benkyou.





I get into a Toyota Corolla parked in an American suburban household’s garage.

Hachiko Crossing is shed from a single hair follicle.

I’m in the middle of the desert driving along wide, SUV-sprinkled roads.

The Yamanote Line gets swallowed with my saliva.

I swing by a drive-thru fast food establishment.

A shokunin sushi master slips out of my pocket.

I stroll through mega-aisles at mega-warehouses lined with Korean appliances.

A Togoshi Ginza gift shop flakes off like dry skin.

I flip on a TV set: another home invasion and a murder.

A Meguro River sakura petal detaches from a tree branch and shrivels.

I jog on a treadmill on carpeted floors.

A Shibuya studio-trained house dancer is pushed out of my sweat glands.

I buy avocados imported from Mexico and shrimp imported from Thailand.

A Fukushima-radiated tomato rolls out of my bag and splats on the floor.

I take a shower.

And a steaming hot furo flies off like a broken fingernail.

I dress myself in muted tones and Uggs.

And a Harajuku girl comes out with my menstrual flow.

The Japanostalgia eats me up.

An obi, yakitori skewer, salaryman, OL, otaku, Osaki station jingle, ubervending machine, Franco-Japanese bakery, manga, soba noodle, and izakaya run down my cheeks as tears.

I’m interned in the hospital.

Chuken Hachiko dutifully awaits me at Shibuya Station.

Afternoon Love

(inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “Mediodía”)

Our house has the light of the sun in the afternoon:

orange tea cups and saucers;

scripts of scribes from the land of hibiscus,

and your smile runs like film through the theater of my mind.

A warm yellow glow illuminates gray stone and triangles from Bangkok,

it comes with a whistle of the kettle for the brew of Balinese beans,

between the double flame of the pumpkin brulee and green cedar,

you ascend to the balcony above.

Here in this city I will live with you in joy and love,

eternal, with gayageums, blue waves, and pianos,

with only a dialog of wind and water.

While you move upward or down on the stairs, walking or running,

I am there,

singing or reading, knitting or cooking; you nail things down;

we write, return, embrace.

When all the world says,”It is winter,” we say, “In fact, it is spring.”

The Emperor

On three occasions, I went to see the Japanese emperor on his birthday.

From his glass-encased patio at his palace, he greeted visitors like me who’d trekked up the paved, sakura tree-lined hill to his imperial abode. Some had come from Tokyo station to give him birthday wishes, some from Shinagawa, some from France or America, Nepal or Italy.

The emperor was petite, his hair silver and combed slickly. As he approached the microphone, the crowd of visitors I stood amongst went silent and looked up to him as he began to speak. His voice was gentle. Regal.


I am deeply appreciative of all of your birthday wishes.


This year marks the twentieth anniversary of my enthronement and our fiftieth wedding anniversary.


I’d like to express my gratitude to the many people who have congratulated us on these milestones.


Looking back on the past year,


it grieves me that there are many people facing difficulties due to the severe economic conditions in our country, triggered by the global financial crisis.


It is my hope that this coming year will be a better year. And as we enter into it, I wish you all the best of health.”

“BANZAI!” “Ten-thousand years!”the largely Japanese crowd yelled in unison, vigorously waving their hand-held flags in the air.

I drowned in a sea of rising suns, intoxicated by the fervor, waving to the emperor myself.

“BANZAI!” I declared.

There he was.

Like the President of the United States in power.

Like the King of England in gentility.

Like the Great and Powerful Oz in enigma.

But more.

The emperor of Japan.


The American taught me the Protestant work ethic, the rags to riches tale, ambition, and the appreciation of diversity.

The Spaniard taught me to siesta, to buy a baguette if broke, that beauty might mean bullying a bull for some, and the flamenco flair.

The Argentine taught me to dine, drink, and discuss with friends until sunrise, the art of Fernet and coke on porteno doorsteps, to tango and to let go.

The Taiwanese taught me to eat often and to eat passionately, where the ancestors’ ashes are scattered, and the way of the Buddha.

The Chinese taught me to read between the lines, to delve into the classics, and that Confucius neglected to mention the twenties in milestones of human development.

The Korean taught me to spice it up morning, afternoon, or night, to work tirelessly, and that some traditions are worth carrying on while some are worth ditching.

The Japanese taught me to gaman, self-sacrifice, appreciate each morsel, conserve, and thank my ancestors.

The Balinese taught me to adorn with fresh flowers, to baste with coconut milk, and to dance in trance.


“The potencies of sound and of vach, the human voice, have nowhere else been so profoundly investigated as in India. The Aum vibration that reverberates throughout the universe (the “Word” or “voice of many waters” of the Bible) has three manifestations or gunas, those of creation, preservation, and destruction. Each time a man utters a word he puts into operation one of the three qualities of Aum. This is the lawful reason behind the injunction of all scriptures that man should speak the truth.” – Paramahansa Yogananda

Let us be cognizant of our gunas: creation, preservation, and destruction. Let us not destruct when we mean to preserve or create.