"I had the great honor of a public reading of this poem on the back of a flatbed truck at the annual "Manzanar Pilgrimage" in April 1997 at the location of the former WWII JA concentration camp. In many ways, it closed a personal circle with my uncle's memories, and being able to visit Manzanar for the first time." - Wataru Ebihara

Manzanar Scorpions
by Wataru Ebihara

my aunt and uncle arrive
a three-day drive from California
tomato, pepper, strawberry plants
await a new home in Westerville
(that's in Ohio)

digging in moist springtime soil
their roots reunite with the earth's
earthworms extracted entertaining
eight-year-old Justin who laughs

we explore with a magnifying lens
turning over rocks to discover other
crawlers, pill bugs, centipedes --

uncle Hitoshi sits at the table
relaxing with a cold can of beer
and stories emerge from a mind
full of memories

my uncle's family
was one of the first
where ten thousand once lived
half a century ago, called Manzanar
among mountains of the eastern Sierras
barren dry dusty desert

before the people came --
"scorpions were 12 inches long"
no one believed them
they sent photographs
no one believed them
they sent the scorpions
to the Smithsonian Institution
-- the largest ever found

"and centipedes at Manzanar
were three inches!"
my uncle holds his fingers apart
with a pause for added drama --
"not three inches long, I tell you
three inches wide!"

that night I dreamed of walking
and walking to discover it closed
returning to desert rocks to find
ghostly centipedes and scorpions
crawling magnified in the moonlight
-- their poison still stings
like barbed-wire

© by wataru ebihara

More poetry by Wataru Ebihara at Sansei Online.