Poetry & Prose

Arrival at Minidoka (8.10.1942)

Dedicated to George Takei

 

 

Photos of Minidoka American

Concentration Camp

Busses arrived  belongings
piled  people dumped,
chaos and dust blown;
everywhere the wind of Idaho,
towers, olive clad, angry
men with rifles ready.

The children no longer sure
as: Okāsan bows to soldiers—
squeaky voiced, pimply men
with silver bars; Otōsan
says “Hai, bosu” to boys
with accents from Chicago,
Little Rock and New York City.

What has happened
to the rice in their pantry,
to the baseball and bat Oji Hiroshi
gave him for his birthday?
What of her Kokeshi
who drives away evil; why
does that doll lie helpless
on the bare plank floor?

Will there be school?
Will they play tag,
speak English, learn science,
geography, sing
the national anthem;
songs of their heritage?
Will Obasan fry dorayaki?
Will grandfather tell them
how to behave
in this strangest place?

Sweaty green soldiers speak
at—not with—.
People smile,  bow,  look away
towards home, towards
the warring ocean

Tonight,  tears come to eyes
betrayed by this  place,
this land of liberty,
this nation of red,  white,  blue
they love son’nani.

 

Okāsan – mom
Otōsan – dad
Hai, bosu – Yes, boss
Oji – uncle
Kokeshi – a traditional limbless doll with powers to drive away evil
Obasan – auntie
Dorayaki – a sweet treat; a honey pancake sandwich served filled with red bean paste
son’nani – very much

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremiah 31:16 by Kenneth Weene

After Jeremiah 31:16

Thus saith Jehovah: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith Jehovah; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

Did they cry for their mothers?
Pray to a god? Ask for mercy?

Perhaps they died without a sound
not a whimper or tear.

Nobody talks about their actual deaths
about this slaughter of innocents.

We remember them for their could-have-beens­:
hopes, wishes, childhood dreams

delusions of a better place where children
are safe from madmen’s hands.

This one an athlete another a chef;
this one perhaps a dancer, poet, doctor, nurse

a writer of tales a lover of dogs.
Now bloodied and their faces blown away.

Did they wonder why their fathers did not come?
Did they shudder at the popping sounds?

Did their dying bodies jerk
about the classroom’s cold vinyl floor?

I wonder if they cried in pain.
Can we explain to them why
that madman came to school that day?

By Kenneth Weene

The Antique Jar by Kenneth Weene

I know not the substance you once held:

food or drink, poison, balm.

For the farmer or his wife,

whose work you did I can not tell.

The potter’s hands that gave you birth

have long ago returned to earth;

and you upon this antiques’ shelf

have wiled years and gathered dust.

I make you mine to hold the past.

I’ll give to you some humble task:

hold copper coins or paper clips

and feel you have purpose yet –

to fill your womb with any what

that I, your newest owner, wants

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