March 27, 2023

Saisho to Saigo (The beginning and the end)

by Tamiko Dooley

You were sharing a room
With the other girls
First job, first flight
Out of Narita.

6 hats perched on the tables for tomorrow,
6 skirts hanging and 6
Pairs of heels by the bolted door,
Next to the mini-fridge.

First night away from home.

Your stomach rumbled and
You remembered my grandmother
Had made you an omusubi rice ball
You crept out of bed to unzip your suitcase
Whilst the others shouted at you to be quiet

You unwrapped the delicate paper
Still smelling of the house in Nakano
Baba’s palm prints molded onto the
Seaweed, her thumbprints in the rice
Signature sweet and tangy umeboshi at the centre

You knew then what you were leaving behind
That adventures would begin to unfold

Your tears fell silently
Blending into freshly-washed hair
Ready for tomorrow’s early call
First job, first flight.


Tamiko Dooley read Latin and French at New College, Oxford. She lives in South West London and is a sometime wedding pianist. She was the winner of the BBC Radio 3 carol competition 2021.