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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Weaving

Happy summer, everyone! We’re excited to bring two more new voices to the Discover Nikkei platform - originally from the Midwest and now residing in LA, Kyoko Nakamaru; and originally from the South Bay and now residing in Portland, A’misa Chiu. Kyoko’s pieces connect her sense of self to another time and another shore in her lineage. A’misa’s deeply personal piece weaves in and out of the context of cultural silence sometimes too well known within Nikkeihood. Both poets’ pieces connect through language, aching, longing and all that is carried in the body and through the generations.

— traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

A’misa Chiu is a Yonsei librarian and zinester who publishes under the label Eyeball Burp Press. She organizes community art events and festivals, teaches zine workshops to youth, and is one of the main organizers of the Portland Zine Symposium. A’misa and her spouse Alex have a kid named Mazzy who has a YouTube show, The Mazzy Show.

 

inherit

i am formed from a body
with a body forming within me

i birthed a body, small and purple
who blinked out tears when they cried
who my dad called by my own name by accident—or in memory—
we were transported thirty years earlier, his first born
a mirror image of the past.

when my mom stands next to me, and
me next to my child
we are like wooden dolls that fit within the bigger one
a series of imprints
generations
alike and different.

they say you inherit trauma and pain
that sadness and disappointment embeds itself in one’s DNA
its hereditary, they say
like hair that never grays
like hands stocky and solid, farmer’s hands made be caked in dirt
like the pain of injustice that generations before faced
like the silence that shrouds the decades.

in my family, there was silence around the incarceration and oppression of our people
it was covered up, with hopes that happy memories would outweigh the loss
the loss of home, and of farm
the loss of country, and of language
the loss of loved ones, whether in war or in spirit
all of it covered up in dust, hoping that memory would not remember.

silence has shown up again and again
my grandfather walked out on my grandmother for another woman; we were silent
my brother was kicked out of high school; we were silent
sexual abuse happened within our family; we were silent

our family secrets could never reach others ears
silence had become the backdrop of our lives.

i had an abortion; i was silent
for fear of being rejected by my community
for fear of judgement
of failing
of not living up to a standard that I inherited.

my daughter is three, a sponge that absorbs all that is around her,
she will learn and hear the things i have to say
i hope i can speak through our families trauma.
i hope i can speak hard truths to her.
i hope to break the cycle.
i wonder what she will inherit from me.

* This poem is copyrighted by A’misa Chiu (2018)

 

* * * * *

Kyoko Nakamaru-sq.jpg

Kyoko Nakamaru is a Japanese and Swedish Yonsei who currently resides on the westside of Los Angeles. Raised in Wisconsin and Iowa by activists, she considers herself a part of the internment diaspora, those whose families were permanently displaced from the west coast after WWII. She continues to carry her family’s commitment to environmentalism, social justice, and human rights. Kyoko is an interdisciplinary artist, storyteller, writer, and hobby musician. She works as a counselor, specializing in intergenerational, survivor, and medical trauma. Her objective with all of her work is to help people heal from the wounds of the generations before so as not to pass them on to the next.

 

motherland

on the occasion i dream,
it is of you.

song of scape,
flowerless still,
i keep reaching.

each morning, i ache into you
remember a place that no longer exists
and pray to come home.

like all dreams,
i must remember you wrong.
each day,
a day more distant.

your language
lost to me.

tell me how to hold a dream
without words.

* This poem is copyrighted by Kyoko Nakamaru (2018)

 

issei memory

when the shoreline slips into horizon,
he assures me, we are doing the Right Thing.
we are leaving for the Right Reasons.
we cannot live under this Rule.

he is right, i know, but i see futures i don’t like,
endings i do not want.

all my mothers,
of blood and birth,
are gone.

no soil to work,
no food to grow.

the land has dropped out of sight and i know,
i have already lost my home.

crafted from her mass and matter,
a part of me is dead.
on the sea, what part of me can grow and who will i become?

==

i am sorry for what i did to survive.

i am sorry that i kept some children close and let some slip away.
i could not tend them all.
i, too, was wild and broken.
i, too, needed softness
a deep breath
a moment to gather myself.

* This poem is copyrighted by Kyoko Nakamaru (2018)

 

© 2018 A’misa Chiu; Kyoko Nakamaru

furusato loss mother Nikkei Uncovered poet poetry weaving

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.