Sun Flowers my mother was a painter, my father a poet, I danced into life... I have a painting in the kitchen Sunflowers unsigned, undated, said to be my mother's the flowers are big bold free unlike her style yet Auntie says... "for sure, it's your mother's" I stare into their bright yellowness Four Bright Suns in a blue vase makes me smile I was twelve when Mom left Dad and I a young poet-man lured her far away 1960--a brave choice back then before she died she told me she regretted her decision... the sun flowers tell a different story Genie Nakano, December 2, 2019
This is my man
through crashes and bashes
drama and flight
it hasn’t always been a delight
but somehow, we make it
shake it and bake it
I have no books
no rules of the game
I’m a child from a broken home
I’m a dreamer
who watched the silver screens
no one told me
there’s more than the kiss
there’s doldrums and mold on the floor
sweep it up, keep it up
I promise it’s a deal
we’ve learned bliss is real
I don’t want to listen
to doctors’ advice
he’s only got a few more years
we live for the day
watch the sun taking glory
our little dog wag no tail
we hold hands in the dark
take walks in the park
listen to tales of beyond
I love this man
with little wings growing
a dragon who floats all around
Today is all I have
that’s what he has to say
The world’s going to end anyway
the world’s going to end anyway
But I don’t agree
because you see
nothing ever stays the same
light into darkness and
form unto form
Once a macho man
now he understands
you do the dishes
I’ll make more wishes
it keeps going on this way
September 16, 2021
I revised this Tanka prose. Always something new.
Harry is singing his song in a parking lot, of an elementary school–somewhere in a midwestern state. He has a full band backing him. His voice beautiful resounding over the whole black top. Kathy is trying to get money to fund him.
He deserves it, she says. So do I, I say under my breath feeling rather empty inside.
I run to an open field of grass some of the blades are yellowing but it is pure space under blue skies and sunshine. Uncanny for this time of year in a midwestern state.
Three men running behind me with a baby Bengal tiger at their side. One of the men has blood dripping down his face. The baby Bengal unleashes and bolts towards me–his mouth wide open in a smile is about to knock me over.
I wake up to find Bodhi, my little…
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Nisei Luncheon Club
They look me over
all conversation stops as I enter the room.
refusing to meet my eyes
she’s different than us
cluck cluck tsk tsk
she can’t even speak Japanese
don’t serve her any green tea.
A very quiet crowd (I think)
I make small talk desperately
they answer reluctantly —
all in Japanese
what does she eat
they sniff and snoop
what is in her bento box
no steamed white rice, no pickled plums
what kind of girl is this
who brings lunch in a paper bag?
Weeks pass by its always the same
the silence is choking my air
so today I plan to bring my sweet flan
to soften their scaly hides.
As I stand outside the luncheon door
the laughter, the sharing, the laughter
are they talking about me?
her husband is Puerto Rican, Reiko says
she smells of garlic and black beans
why is she here
she’s hybrid trash
their words recoil round the room
as I open the door
my flan flies across the floor
on the chairs on their hair
on their Nisei frosted faces
on their age old, yellowed pearls
they cried and gasped
and I laughed,
and I laughed
Alone I cry.
September 7, 2021, word count 219
Beautiful Bento lunch with white steamed rice and one pickled plum on top.
Nisei: Second generation Japanese who immigrated before WW2 to America and other countries. In this poem–America.
The back story…
For a long time, I wished I was a Chicana. I wanted beautiful dark eyes with long thick lashes like Maria Duran. I wanted to hully gully like Theresa Navarro. I guess you could call it ‘identity issues. At thirteen I started smoking and wanted to be grown up. My 9th grade English teacher, Miss Brandes encouraged me to write—she liked my story ‘The Lion’ and told the counselor Mr. Kirkland I didn’t belong in the flunky classes. He transferred me to college prep.During this time I joined the “Modernettes” a modern dance club and the rest is history. My grades soared. Unfortunately, I had a cigarette jones and smoked for many many years. Dance was my savior. Then I had to give it up when my hips wore out and in 2008, got a hip replacement. That’s when poetry became my savior.
During Covid 20 my blog kept the light shining.
The Tanka Prose, Orales Pues is a tongue in cheek but true story of my teenage years in East L. A……
my Japanese American eyes
it took me a long time.
August 29, 2021
Photo: Genie Nakano
born in ELA barrios
I live in a world of dualities
in my tight skirt and sweater
I can cha cha ‘n hully gully down
but I don’t know who I am
I peroxide my hair red
rat it high, rat it high
pierce my ears with the catholic cross
Buddhahead becomes a chola.*
sends me to the back of the room
my hair is too high to see over
she calls me a disgrace
oye, better to nap in the back
black eyeliner, jade green shadow
I look older now
times going too slow
I want to get out of here
I am Maria of Westside Story
in my purple skirt
I twirl with amateur grace
round and round
and then again…
suddenly a balance
that’s it for me
dance sets me free
forget those guys,
those blackened eyes
Catch me in the Rye
while legs grow strong
my spine becomes a willow
time moves in rhythm
and everything makes sense
the world becomes a dance
keep on is all I say
you call me a show off now
I don’t care—cause I feel good
and don’t you wish you had my legs
orale pues, right on right on.
Originally published in Atlas Poetica, editor M. Kei. (thank you M. Kei you started me on this tanka path.!!!)
*chola gangster girl,
*orales pues, right on,
*Rat, backcombing the hair,
*Huly gully, shimmy shoulder dance.
Sometimes I write for therapy as I did when I wrote this piece. Hideki my husband had a stroke and on his brain a hematoma. He was in the hospital. The hematoma was bleeding. Toto had just died and Bodhi was in the hospital with a rare blood disease IMHA in critical condition. I was all alone. Late at night I wrote this piece with eyes closed in automatic writing.
My prayer… December 2020
my husband had two strokes
Here we look inside my husband’s brain
a mandala a network of pathways interfacing in his head.
his brain is bleeding
a hematoma lies on top of the right hemisphere
yes, the brain is divided into right and left hemispheres
completely different and divided by
I think he uses his mind too much
can we calm it down so he can live a little longer?
he is 80 years old but his heart is strong
he s lively and energetic strong-willed
give him a chance to live
he’s a good man
Right now, he is teeter tottering on life and death
so, they say– maybe this is not so true
they don’t know how strong he is
leave him alone. He’s fine.
Something warm and tasty
that’s what the world needs right now
that’s what I need right now.
something savory that soothes my tummy
mom’s macaroni and cheese my favorite
childhood memories of Barbara and me
we wore our rainboots to school
we splashed in puddles
that was the happiest time of my life.
dad and mom were living together
in long beach
little did I know they weren’t happy.
on life and death
doctors tell me
the solid truth
happiness is a bubble that protects you…Genie Nakano, August 24, 2021
Hideki in February 2021
The hematoma is gone.
The first thing I notice
you are sprouting wings–
I once had huge flamingo pinks.
I traded them in for dragonfly wings.
They work just as well.
no one knows
you can fly
everything is smaller now lighter now B I G doesn't mean better dewdrop wings dewdrop worlds
But do as you please fly to Texas toot big guns howdy partner come along cowboy ride my bronco Angel man keep growing those wings together... we'll fly out of here. Genie Nakano, 2016--revised, August 17, 2021
Cats love in the heat of the night another fight Genie Nakano, August 21, 2021