Message from Manzanar

by Martha Nakagawa


It is still there, lying in that gaping womb.

Fiftysome years of baking in muted silence.


It is a violence

of plates and cups.

Bashed remnants of bone

China glint

like teardrops

'neath the heat.

There is nothing whole here.


The backs of some read:

USOMC McNicol China

Tepco USA China

Buffalo China

Homer Laughlin

Wallace China

They were all made

in America just like me.


I wonder who ate off

those plates and cups,

whose jeweled whiteness

now glares at me like cracked skulls.


Did they eat platefuls

of dusty rice

wash it down with spit

only to throw them up again?


Did they sink

barbed teeth

on thick cup edges

and taste bitter

salt tea trickle down

epoxied mouths?


I lift a halved cup,

imagining someone,

my mother perhaps

using it to sip

a nice cup of hot tea.

But now,

only desert ants, black as shoyu,

cling to its white underbelly, dead.


Mt. Whitney cares nothing for this.

Her snow ribbed sides stand aloof, while

we, here, waste away in heat,

as clear as water

as dry as dead dreams.

There is no refuge here, in

this garden of sand, stone and sage.

It is wild and untamed.


Reprinted with permission by the author.