Uncle George ,Sugie, 2-8-1892 , 1965 ,Sugie & Yaemon,3-8-1880,Uncle Jay, 1918-1960
my grandmother died at 73 the age that I am now her thin grey hair was tied back in a bun was she ever young? coming from a foreign land her songs were of an old Japan coming to America a picture bride "fresh off the boat" a timely phrase did she ever love? Grandpa and Grandma everyday bickering mumbled sounds long ago my mother remembers "when papa drank sake" fights were brutal and bloody now with age just words how do you get out of this slave trade world your children are the keys work and save work and slave send your sons to be a doctor but Uncle George died at 22 Uncle Jay died at 42 a doctor whose dream to be an artist was it suicide Grandmas' dreams flew by only English was my mistake back then when-- Japs were defeated in war I only wanted to be American NO, "I don't speak Japanese" and Grandma don't speaku Enguirish so we are pigeons in the dark we never touched I'm not sure why did we ever play Bill Wither Sings "grandmas, hands played a tambourine so well" my Grandma never did I tried to understand but it's been so long ago Grandma picking strawberries cracked hands filled with fresh hopes scorched from the sun Note: Bachan means grandmother in Japanese. I don't like to be called Bachan and Grandma because I don't feel like a grandma and when I digged deeper I remembered my own Bachan. Her story was so sad. She was creative, a great cook but her life was tragic. I suppose that may be a reason why I don't want to be Bachan--call me Auntie. Aloha Auntie. I spoke pigeon English to Grandma--so speaku Engurish means speak English.
Invitation to Peace early morning these days no T.V. no radio prone to quietness I meditate everyday the same way like sitting on a rabbit's foot I feel lucky bound by our desires I watch the incense rise clouds turn into rain turn into spring flowers no birth no death a yogini blossoms in the night unbound by the clarity of daylight busy busy busy thoughts busy buzzing clear the space toss them out watch them fly before they fall catch moments Genie Nakano, June 25, 2020
These are tanka that come to me as I meditate. I have aligned them into a tanka series.
rocks in a tumbler i have settled with time polishing the gems (originally published in Ribbons and Spillwords)
This poem is written by my poet friend Selma Benjamin. She is 101 years old. She has been through the holocaust. She is gentle, kind, and very wise. Here is one out of her hundreds of poems that she has given me permission to print. Here goes:
Crazy plague from unknown source
Makes us turn lives upside down
Racism can no more be dismissed
Protesters up against police power
Pedestrians instead of cars on freeways
Looters exploit the situation
Fires, sticks and guns appear
Everyone is suddenly a criminal
Loneliness is multiplied a hundred times
Black and white replace nature’s colors
Boredom greys sunny days
Email takes beauty out of language
Zoom depersonalizes schools and meetings
Phone exhausts voice and feeling
Human beings are very sick
Scientists please find vaccines and cures
SB June 1
I watch him gently touch her face gaze into her eyes-- my practical man keeps his hands in his pockets (originally published in Atlas Poetica: editor M.Kei)
Toto is sleeping, brother and hubby are working today, practical men….
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY
this is my hood
where concrete meets the sky
neon lights twinkle
humanity in your face
born here, loved here, die here
I was born in East L.A., Boyle Heights, CA USA
in the Japanese American Hospital, May 15, 1948. Racists in America often refused to care or treat Japanese Americans, so we built our own hospital in Boyle Heights on a hill. I don't remember being born but when I went back as a teen, I remember the sweet care I received. I'll never forget it. I spent the next 8 years living in projects, Aliso Village, Ramona Village in East Los Angeles then on to two different Long Beach Navy projects. I feel sorry for anyone who didn't get to live in the projects. It was a lot of fun. There were always kids to play with. The one on Williams street had swings, jungle bars and enough room for hopscotch and marbles on the grass.
IF I don't write my life down none of it makes sense
Originally published in Ribbons an American tanka Journal.