Kartika Review is one of the best literary journals dedicated to Asian-Americans.
The current issue– the Spring 2012 issue has just come out.
My first poem has been published in it (page 54).
It is entitled: For Kiyoko, Epitaph/Chikai – which is dedicated to my mother who recently passed, just this past September.
Since the images you demand
cling to me
I cannot form my own image.
I am forced to live
by your images,
I am always living like that,
revolution is really body aching.
Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend and had this wonderful line:
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black.
Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.” In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. — we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference. Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society. It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.
Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other. This way, we truly understand diversity. If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all. We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER. This is a violence to that Other.
But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID? Or do we automatically become ANGRY? Do we automatically IGNORE? Do we assume we can translate, communicate? Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.
Honor you. Honor me.
In our difference. Utterly different. Utterly ourselves. Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.
Perhaps other things. But do not assume equality.
There . . . . . . Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?
You’ve escaped the best you can. You wanted happy. Happy. Your life was sad and bad and cruel and cold.
So you grew to want happy happy happiness. Along that road, your own culture and village and old ways were made to be stupid and old-fashioned and dumb and primitive. So you grew to hold your own ways in contempt. With loathing but with longing. You remember with sadness and pain—ahhhhh the old ways of my grandmother and grandfather. Oh well, life goes on. You’ve learned to bury.
Let’s find and build a home! Four walls, many separate rooms. A car or two. A fence to keep those “others” out.
Or perhaps you found a “commune,” with “like-minded” people who thought just like you. Even though some of them molested you and entered you at night, you kept it secret in the name of the secret and not-so-secret wishes for happy happy happy. It’s okay. Bury those pains and dreams of those people. They violated you. They perhaps killed your sons and brothers and raped your mother and sisters. You hold them in contempt. Now they smile and they build you orphanages.
First they killed your parents. Then they build your orphanages “for you” with a compassion. It’s all over the news programs! It must be true. Our government and our leaders are compassionate and they want what’s best for us! You wither in secret. But outwardly you go to work everyday to do what everyone does. Otherwise you would be homeless.
Happy. You are happy. You hold it superior. If I cry you tell me I should see a therapist. I cry for my ancestors and live with its weight. Unlike you, perhaps, I cannot shake it off. I come from their bodies and their struggle against their genocides. And the superior people, privileged in their assimilation to privileged openings to technologies and banking and the hiding of their brutality in their loopholes and crevices of escape inside the laws they themselves write….create more suffering and blame it on my ancestors. It is a weight.
Quit your crying they say. I cry. But I also rage. Crying and rage move together to struggle for ethical concerns and meaningful democracies. The Democracy that is the USA and Western Europe and Japan now, are a sham. But everyone is now trying to escape. Escape away from the unexamined actions that is their life. Life. Apparently we are all on our own. Whatever we cry about is our own problem, even though the problems come from the socieities and the people assimilated closely to, and WANT TO ACCESS those escapes, those that want to move into the homes and have vacations. And communes with like-minded unexamining.
Forget the dead. Forget those destroyed by the machine that is now prevalent, disguised as happy happy happy. Promising thing unfulfilled. The most dangerous thing is our own minds, our own actions. Especially when we congratulate ourselves. Exploited, then made into disguising it as something not.
Then you tell us what to do. You tell us the road to happiness. Your happiness kills. Your happiness is a history of lying and deception. Your happiness is the amassing of resources that masks itself as providence, as mainstay, as supposed-to-be and supposed-to-not be–over and over and over. Followers of happiness, never happy, just followers of promises that are unfulfilled. I am happy, others should copy me–that’s what you say. That is called “colonizer.” Happiness is not my goal. But you say it is. Happy happy happiness.
Systems replaced by other systems. Systems should be local and egalitarian. This makes things messy. You don’t want messy. You want an order, a value system, an unexamined value system that continues to annihilate in the crevices that you have not thought through or care not to face. Oh no, I’m not racist. Oh no, I’m not heterosexist. Oh no I’m a nice person, really. The germs aren’t here. Or perhaps you know that what you say disguises your real pain–your self-disgust, your disgust at your own culture.
The old ways are not promising either. Babies with the bath-water. Thrown, no CRUSHED away. With glee and celebration like those after the Atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, or after the Malaria blankets were laid on the Native American children. Oh but it’s for democracy, our great land. Continual colonialism, disguised as: “That’s that, it’s different from what I do. I’m a good person.”
Who are you? You say you’re happy. Or you will be as soon as the others listen to what you have to say. You know better. You are good.
You are happy happy happy. House, children, cars, vacations, traveling into lands where people don’t want you or have been made to want you because it’s the only way your own government has made their lands–to be slaves to the tourists and foreigners. See–they want me here, they need us. That was made real, my friend. It wasn’t an accident. Open your eyes. But all you care is that you’re happy and that happiness looks a certain way. I get sick.
I don’t want your happiness. I want life.
Event: Blackness in Flux in Okinawa + Black Japanese Guest Artist Time: Friday, February 11 at 4:00pm - 6:30pm Location: UC Berkeley, Barrows Hall, Rm. 691 Organizers: PHD students, Co-recipients of UC Center for New Racial Studies Grant,2010-11 Eriko Ikehara (UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies) Mitzi Uehara-Carter (UC Berkeley Anthropology) "Making Race in Between Racial "States of Being" Two black-Okinawan graduate students at UC Berkeley will present some of their research findings and their works in progress on race, space, and US militarization in Okinawa. This forum will also bring together several black- Japanese who will share their poetry, art, and other creative works which speak to blackness in flux in their own lives. Guest performers: Fredrick Cloyd Sabrena Taylor Michael James Ahmed Yamato Ariko Ikehara Mitzi Uehara Carter Program A: 4-4:45 pm Mid-Year Grant Report Ariko Ikehara: “Situating black-Amerasian Okinawans in mixed space/race history” Mitzi Uehara Carter: “Nappy Routes and Tangled Tales of Blackness in Okinawa” Program B: 5pm-6pm Guest Performances
I exile myself from myself. and YOU——-Don’t see yourself as…….Tainted. If you do….you hide it and make me tainted and I see you Sad. And that makes you see me angry, insane. Impossible.
When I do, I’m home. Home is exile. Exile because there’s no way what you call ‘home’ can be mine.
And as if home doesn’t change, morph, move into something — always unrecognizable. It’s too late for recognition. But I will show you something and you will recognize it for what you think and feel and hear and taste. My body is colonized by your gaze.
We’re people-of-color. That’s an identity that’s tainted. But without it I completely become white and Japanese and black. Colonized by those rules of walk, talk, understanding, dance.
When I choose my ‘own’ way, I know it’s not my own. It’s been handed down. If so, who gives a shit?
It doesn’t matter in this so-called ‘post-social’ world of ours….alienations and displacements where people who have had communities continued in another land, another space/time and call it ‘home’ will ————look down——-down——on me and those like me. And we can pretend to be brothers and sisters because we share. And some who don’t look down on me, think we are equals. No time/space, no legacy, no sekihan, cho-cho, miso shiru, barbecued ribs, konketsuji, nigger, left unconscious dead. I’m not allowed. So in that time where you cannot bear my pain and it is exiled into me, we SHARE ———the colonized mind. But there are those who do share. There’s no need for the pain, but there’s a need for allowing and alliance.
Can we ‘Be’——with our differences? The thousand bombs and body-part explosions, mushroom clouds and slavery whips, and imprisonments of my ancestors and the occupation of my body in heterosexual mindscapes and border-guard territories———will NOT make you superior to me. Because you don’t remember. Forever you may enslave yourself but I remain TAINTED in your result, your gun. Your attitude-pistol that props you up WITH it. Instead of takuan, I eat hamburgers in that place. But I eat takuan uh huh. Hungry.
Forever blackened in your multicultural superiority that pretends equality. Forever not right. Forever imprisoned. No matter how many songs I sing to you, no matter how many silences and gentle hands, I’m only a big penis, a tawny muscle movement, a …a…..a….a. some ‘THING’ that is compared to your utopia. Utopia……the unconscious colonial organ.
‘Thing’ yourself with your colonized mind, until you crave, then so so tired tired you start to see me. Perhaps someday….we may actually touch beyond eyes here. Right here, and between your complete and beautiful to my complete and beautiful. Always it is part, incomplete, moving and dancing in time. complete is incomplete always and beautiful, but justice moans. Then we understand that we are scarred.
Scarred and twisted in your so-called will to perfection. That is perverted….tainted. Just ‘being’ I am tainted because YOU are tainted. Funny thing is…. there doesn’t need to be this———TAINT. But what?
Taint me and I you. Let’s walk y’all.
Photo: Osaka from the air after bombings
WHO IS HIROSHIMA?
It was no mushroom cloud. It wasn’t
When I speak……… WHO is Hiroshima? WHO owns its name?
What does its memory confront or continue?
The heavy boots of US American navy men, running off of their American boats onto the shores of Naha in Uchina, Yokohama, Tachikawa or Yokosuka—into the bars where the so-called ORIENTAL girls are there, ripe for their pickin’s and choosin’s. Attractions, games, bribes, collusions, rapes. The pliable and obedient oriental slaves. The imperial Japanese……watching, planning, bribing, stealing, Starved for food, comfort, defeated, wanting, Starving flesh.
No rule of law in Japan can touch Americans there. This started BEFORE Hiroshima was on the maps of any American. Before anyone else existed, all others are inferior.
What is Hiroshima? Who carries its name? Hiroshima overcrowds the real story, the real picture, the BIG picture.
Month after month //////// daily fire-bombings///// Tokyo, rubbles, stench……….. One month of the torture-fires at night came to Osaka where my mother was a child, forgotten now even in history books. It’s only a shadow of Hiroshima if that. Screams. Screams. Burnt flesh. Shanghai, Nanking Chinese cries under Japanese bombs. Now Tokyo under Americans.
Sirens, burning flesh, screaming, running, sweating/////// Quivering lips in bomb shelters…… Limb-flying explosions. The limbs without bodies….the end…the beginnings.
My mother the little girl—a nameless black-haired girl under flying, released, BOMBSsssssss /////
Her life supposedly never happened for neither the Japanese nor the Americans. Bone-rattling///Poundings, chemical-fires of the inside-out…….
Little GIRL survived…………the rats she ate in poverty, the hanging skin of her friends’ burnt flesh, the plea for food and water…..scrap metal roofs and trash for walls………never happened except in a warbride diary of someone else’s land. SHE was in OSAKA, Tokyo—NOT Hiroshima. And yet……..IT was Hiroshima we only utter….and remember. But as what?
It was another war////////// different from what Japanese say……….. Americans say……….burning.
I knew my mother as KIYOKO. She signed her name on her checks in the stucco red desert house……..Albuquerque. and there it was on her ID card: KIYOKO ……… written carefully, slowly, with flare by her aging hands. American military jeeps in her eyes and splinters of her friends’ bodies in her skin.
She practiced for three months everyday for one hour, to write her name in English.
Why did my FATHER, her husband, and my mother’s brother TERUO, call her EMIKO?
Over genmai-cha and osembe……I asked her at 27 /////////
She tells: Kiyoko is my sister’s name. She died in Hiroshima.
Our family papers were disappeared on AUGUST 6—you know—the JIGEN BAKUDAN. To marry your father, I needed papers.
She marries an American occupation soldier—a military policeman, just 16 years old, faking it so he can fight for the country that hates him in his own land–African-American, almost proud to be an American but this American…..is a promise and a hope, not real. Even as he was an occupation policeman with gun in hand, the lynching of black prisoners in the US military jails in Japan haunted him. He bears the only truth he knows.
I, as a son of the victor and the defeated ////////// Hiroshima is unending. Hiroshima covers all issues. Hiroshima was a wall of fire and 3000 degrees Celsius.
It was not a mushroom cloud. Blood. Scream. Flying. Death…..wall of fire.
I, the son of a Black and Yellow. I, must now…… Articulate this Place, in my body, everywhere.
Ghosts passed onto lands and dreams.
Soochow….Osaka…Tokyo…Yokohama…Tuskeegee…Nashville….Detroit….San Francisco Peace Treaty signed…then….A-bomb…Pyongyang….DaNang …Albuquerque….Stop. Listen.
When I speak………….. WHO is HIROSHIMA now?