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
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
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.