Mariko sat quietly on the Silent Way:
A tiny figure framed by a sea.
My only focal point.
Sitting with herself
in a strange sense of place...
11 June 1983
This poem sits in the middle of two rather ugly pieces, ‘For the World is Hollow…’ (#547) and ‘Chained in the Brain’ (#549). I have no idea where this one came from or what I was trying to say in it. The word ‘atonement’ is one I believe my father defined for me as ‘at + one + ment’, to atone is to return to a state of single mindedness. My dad was not a language expert—far from it—but every now and then he surprised me even if his explanations were sometimes questionable: ‘woman’ = ‘womb + man’. The etymology of the word suggests otherwise but there’s something sweet about his reasoning.
At the time Mariko would have been about the only female Japanese name I would’ve known. I took it from the X-Men comic—the character first appears in X-Men #118—where she’s Wolverine’s love interest. As a kid I’d bought Marvel and DC comics when I could get them but there was only one newsagent in the whole town in the whole town that sold them and you were lucky to get two consecutive issues of any title but I remember reading issues of Batman and The Fantastic Four and some of Jack Kirby’s stellar work from that time. I started collecting seriously after I was married. I was looking for a hobby, something to take me away from the work, work, work I was doing, and collecting comics felt suitably indulgent and they were still realistically prices (about 35p each). It was a good time to get back into comics too. Frank Miller took over writing duties on Daredevil with issue #165 (July 1980) and Chris Claremont began work on his Dark Phoenix Saga with X-Men #129 (January 1980).
‘The Silent Way’ is made up. I was looking for a Japanese-sounding place name and that was what I came up with. I was never happy with it or the poem in general. I felt out of my comfort zone. I’d read very little Japanese-style poetry—mostly poems by Ezra Pound—and so why I was trying out this form of poetry at this time in my life quite bewilders me.