Four Seasons
The Wonderful World of Japanese Writers of English

Intermediate - Advanced

Here's an essay, story, and poem written originally in English.

by Kono Keiko

Pre-Reading Exercise

Reading Without A Dictionary:
Vocabulary Build-Up
Here, some of the words from "Cafeteria" have been selected to facilitate your comprehension of the poem. Read the sentences carefully, and choose the correct answer. Click to find out if you are right or wrong.

1. In days past, the barbarians had a custom of men dragging women away from the campfire to make them their wives.
Dragging is similar to ...
a. pulling away roughly
b. lighting up and smoking
c. dropping a bomb on them

2. Mr. Boo's childhood idol was Dennis the Menace, which has affected his mental state because he often makes a nuisance of himself in public.
Nuisance tells us that Mr. Boo ...
a. picks his nose all of the time
b. wants to be a pachinko player
c. causes a bit of trouble

3. A yawn is an expression of our being tired.
Yawn means that we ...
a. go to the ballot box and vote against Mr. Boo
b. open our mouth and sometimes stretch our arms
c. read the editorial column in the English newspaper

4. In the kitchen at the college cafeteria, the cooks prepare meals for a large number of people in cauldrons.
Cauldrons are ...
a. containers for bad people
b. a place to send letters overseas
c. large pots for cooking things in

5. The politician kisses babies and shakes hands so that everybody will think he is amicable.
Amicable is the same as ...
a. friendly
b. a terrorist
c. hogwash

6. Downtown Osaka is bustling with thousands of people and vehicles.
Bustling suggests that Osaka is ...
a. on fire
b. quiet
c. very busy

7. The Eskimos are immune to the cold because they are accustomed to it.
Immune to means ...
a. seals jumping in the air
b. a hot-water bottle
c. not affected by

8. It is a shame to see so many New Yorkers addicted to drugs.
Addicted to could be changed to ...
a. studying English
b. dependent upon
c. Merry Christmas

9. If our skin gets dry in the wintertime, it's a good idea to soak in a warm bath.
Soak means ...
a. drown
b. catch fire
c. get thoroughly wet

10. The mesh doors in American homes let the air in, but not the mosquitoes and flies.
Mesh refers to ...
a. potatoes after an animal walks on them
b. a pattern of criss-crossing lines close together
c. rifles, tanks, and lots of dangerous missiles

11. Elderly people tend to have a lot of wrinkles on their faces.
Wrinkles are...
a. diseases
b. pancakes
c. lines

12. When we eat, we use saliva to help swallow our food.
Saliva is a ...
a. textbook
b. a T.V. show
c. body fluid

13. Pavlov, the famous scientist, trained his dogs to drool when they heard a bell.
Drool indicated that ...
a. the dogs' mouths watered
b. Pavlov was a real idiot
c. a red light on a door

14. The basketball player sprained his ankle, and it started to swell immediately.
Swell tells us that the ankle ...
a. has fallen off
b. became larger than usual
c. needs to be sawed in two

15. Tigers' fans believe that a 10-0 loss to the Giants is a bitter defeat.
Bitter here means ...
a. tastes exceedingly good
b. it's time to go to the U.S.A.
c. unpleasant and humiliating

by Kono Keiko

They swarm at the cafeteria
Dragging nuisances and yawns of the day
Tons of stew boiled in a cauldron
Now served and spilled in an amicable
Sociability re-built
Passing salt and habitual smiles
They are immune to mild fatigue
And so they are addicted to tender
Mocha pink lip color soaks into meshes of
Saliva wells up in a warm meat-colored
Grease drools
Tongue rolls
Its taste buds swelling in hidden red
Continuously to wring pleasure,
Desperately to chew compassion,
Out of bitter reality

Comprehension Check
Multiple Choice Exercise
Choose the right answer from a, b, and c.
Click to find if you are right or wrong.

1. The choice of "swarm" rather than "walk to" ...
a. better describes the rush hour during lunch time
b. tells us that the food in the cafeteria is not hot
c. is a way of saying the food is as sweet as honey

2. Eating, drinking, and "sociability" are connected because ....
a. if the food is not good we can say so
b. we have a chance to talk to other students
c. people can pass the salt and smile

3. We know the poet is a careful observer because ...
a. of the details and comments in her poem
b. she never eats during lunch time
c. the cafeteria is always busy at noon

4. The words "wring pleasure" rather than just "eat" tell us ...
a. more difficult words are always better than simple words
b. it is the last wish of someone who is going to die
c. that eating is fulfilling in more ways than one

If a list were to be drawn up of the top three Japanese poets in English today, Kono Keiko's name would certainly have to be nominated. She is a recipient of several literary awards, including the Kenneth Rexroth Poetry Award for Japanese women university students. Ms. Kono received her B.A. in English from St. Stephen's College in the U.S.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Kobe College. She is presently writing a doctoral dissertation on the reception of James Joyce in Japan.
"Cafeteria" by Kono Keiko is from Four Seasons: An Anthology of Original Writing by Japanese Writers in English edited by John Pereira and the late Prof. Eugene O'Reilly and published in 1984.