Self-Portrait with Umeboshi



Self-Portrait with Umeboshi

Our resemblance strengthens each day.

Reddened by sun and shiso,
seasoned with salt,

we preside, finding
comfort in failure. Or does
the subjugation of one’s flavor for another’s

define defeat? The bitter, the sour, the sweet
attract and repel

like lovers separated by distances
too subtle to see.
Filling space becomes the end.
What do you learn when you look through the glass?

Knowing my fate, I say fallen. I say earth.


Ah, simplicity! When I was a child my mother would occasionally serve rice balls in which a single mouth-puckering umeboshi rested at the center. These have long been a favorite, but I admit that umeboshi might be an acquired taste. Commonly called “pickled plums,” ume aren’t really plums but are more closely related to apricots. I cherish them.

“Self-Portrait with Umeboshi” first appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series (August 2014), was included in the subsequent print anthology, Self-Portrait Poetry Collection, and also appears in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.



32 thoughts on “Self-Portrait with Umeboshi

  1. As umeboshi are disgusting, I cannot in good conscience “like” this poem. It is a great poem and I like it, but cannot click “like” as I would have to accept the umeboshi as a likable object! 🙂

    The umeboshi is a test for foreigners, and I have happily failed the Trial By Umeboshi… after triumphing in the Trial By Natto.

    Natto Forever… (with mustard and soy sauce of course…)!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Someday you’ll attain enlightenment and enjoy this delight. I have to admit that I may be the only remaining person in my family willing to eat it. And then there’s beni shoga, which I make from ginger and ume “vinegar.” Yum.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are a genius of poetry, but I question the sanity of anyone who can eat beni shoga and/or umeboshi and then question the spiritual status of others! LOL!

        I wills ay this though. My almost wife in Japan hated both too, and the dark look she would shoot at anyone bringing either to our place was a hilarious mix of cynicism, sarcasm, weltschmerz, and resignation. It is a look that Japanese folks have mastered, and one of the greatest things I have ever seen. Made me wish I was a LOT closer in genetics to the Asian part of “Caucasian”!

        You remain my hero…

        … all is forgiven! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • My wife (from Ohio, of Alsatian-English heritage) likes beni shoga but can’t stomach umeboshi. I admit that a little bit of either goes a long way. And I won’t get into the particulars of another favorite from childhood (rice, ketchup and pepperoni). Yum.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. this is really good. It reminds me or sounds to me like a description of the ocean; and its: the ocean’s or oceans’ when thinking of it as a collective-it, description of itself; as in from its own perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One of my favorites from the chapbook, Bob. Although (I think I might have told you) every time I see the word umeboshi, it always reminds me of watercolor painting (talk about incorrect associations with a language one doesn’t know). So, synesthesia can lead you in a weird way sometimes! Also, it could be the power of suggestion—you trickster-poet, you! [using an art term in the title]

    Liked by 1 person

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