Rebirth, a tanka written by Genie Nakano at

forgiven and feeling fine.

Genie Nakano

Rebirth, a tanka written by Genie Nakano at


written by: Genie Nakano

In the sauna
purging last night’s sins
as the sweat
rolls down my breasts
forgiven and feeling fine

Originally published in and Ribbons a tanka journal

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Don’t call me Bachan

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
                              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

                                 picking strawberries 
                                     cracked hands
                                filled with fresh hopes
                                scorched from the sun

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

Photo by Pixabay on
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

by our desires
I watch 
the incense 

turn into rain
turn into
spring flowers
no birth   no death

a yogini
blossoms in the night
by the clarity 
of daylight

busy busy busy
thoughts busy buzzing
clear the space
toss them out
watch them fly

Genie Nakano,   June  25, 2020

These are tanka that come to me as I meditate. I have aligned them into a tanka series.

2020 BLUES

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:

2020 BLUES

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

All my men

Toto and Hubby at the wheel: Genie Nakano, photographer, June, 2020
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….

“In the Kitchen” Photo by: Rosie Sato


this is…

this is my hood
where concrete meets the sky
neon lights twinkle
humanity in your face
born here, loved here, die here

photo: Genie Nakano, 1998

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.

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