Manzanar


The following poem was inspired in part by the simultaneously depressing and magnificent scenery of the Japanese Concentration Camp Manzanar, located in Inyo County, CA, and in part by the accounts of Japanese victims and descendants of victims of the Japanese Internment during WW2. A total of 11,070 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar. Their only crime was their race.

 

There are no apple trees here, just a patch of dirt
Southeast of Independence along highway 3-9-5.
Some gravesites and a fence.

Today, the curls of smoke from incense sticks
Are like a tally, burned into the California sky
Above a stark white obelisk,

A soul-consoling tower dropped against black Sierra,
Startling– It draws the senses like a magnet,
A newborn star who glows against pitch terror.

Facing west, toward the sacred mountains,
Pockmarked by shells
Large and small calibers of Triton,

It crests– a tsunami rising
From the solid desert ground
And reaches for the dawning sun’s lining.

The Major’s office is now a gift-shop,
Next to a small fish pond–
In it, one Kōhaku swims in a knot

As the Koi spins an apathetic mood-
The pond’s wooden waterfall whispers:
“Forgiving injustice is justice deluge”

Like an overdose of morphine,
My heart lapsed and I Kamakazie into the pond,
And the timed filter shot a cloud of chlorine
In my face as I gasped up into reality respawned.

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