We were nothing. Not forgotten, as much as ignored. We slept in alleyways, begged quietly, sought dignity in the corners of the city. They approached us, one-by-one, and offered us real work, but not for real pay. Who were we to choose? We were grateful to be acknowledged, given a chance. We didn’t know, didn’t think they would purposefully leave us unprotected. We thought we were offered a new life, not the shortening of the one we had. Had we understood fully our cleanup in Fukushima, we might have asked for more, for something, or chosen to remain nothing.




Heather Bourbeau wrote the poetry collection Daily Palm Castings, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and won the Pisk! Poetry Slam. Her journalism has appeared in The Economist, The Financial Times and Foreign Affairs. She appreciates brevity. heatherbourbeau.com.