Home History Discover Nikkei Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column Remembrance ~DISCOVER NIKKEI

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column Remembrance ~DISCOVER NIKKEI

By Noriko Nakada


•••••• on the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

Eleven years old and told

“take only what you can carry”

you hide six glass marbles, smooth and


in your jacket pocket:

a shooter, cats eye, two aggies,

two comets, swirls of yellow and blue

click inside sweaty palm

while in line for breakfast, lunch, and


Six marbles hope for a game

in summer dust

but six aren’t enough

and you fear losing more.

Late one night

you lay marbles on the straw mattress

in the room you share

with Ma, Pop, and four siblings.

Flick the shooter hard against the


send two marbles rolling across rough wood floorboards

to where they find a crack

and fall

lost forever

like the brothers who never make it


Four marbles left

to keep safe

for the train ride to Heart Mountain

but the train jostles

and three roll beneath

bench seats; disappearing.

Say what they all say. Shikata ga nai.

It cannot be helped. 

Step into a desert of more Japanese


than you’ve ever seen

with only one marble in your palm.

Try to remember who you are;

gaze up at the night sky

an expanse of more stars than you’ve

ever seen

and wonder if you will ever

find your way back

to the boy you were before.

*This poem is copyrighted by Noriko Nakada and originally published in “The Rising Phoenix Review” (2018).

to be continued (June 24)

Noriko Nakada is the author of the “Through Eyes Like Mine” memoir series. Her excerpts, essays, and poetry have been published in “Hippocampus,” “Catapult,” “Linden Ave,” and elsewhere. 

This article was originally published in discovernikkei.org, which is a project of the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles.