Home History Discover Nikkei Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column Remembrance

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column Remembrance

By Rey Fukuda Salinas, Greer Nakadegawa-Lee, Noriko Nakada, Kurt Yokoyama-Ikeda, traci kato-kiriyama

Upon this 80th anniversary since the signing of E.O. 9066 during WWII that led to the family separation, house arrest, coerced and forced removal, imprisonment, and mass incarceration of Nikkei throughout North America and especially on the West Coast of the U.S., I wanted to reach out to several writers we have featured in past editions of Nikkei Uncovered, to see if they’d like to share a piece related to this month of commemoration and countless Day of Remembrance programs happening throughout the country.

I’m honored and happy to share here, four magnificent writers — from youth to yelder (young elders), from L.A. to Oakland to Idaho —  truly beautiful, from-the-heart and soul pieces: bilingual and multi-layered storytelling from Rey Fukuda Salinas; from the tongue of power by Greer Nakadegawa-Lee; a piece written five years ago for the 75th Anniversary of E.O. 9066 that speaks loudly today by Noriko Nakada; and a piece held up for us all from Kurt Yokoyama-Ikeda, followed by a template he created for you to continue with your own verse… please enjoy. 

— traci kato-kiriyama

Spirit elder

I tend to my garden

to remind me of you.

Smoking a pipe

The cherry oak smoke

Snaking through succulents and paint.

Wait, wait!

You took another good look at my face

Studying what was changing

The hair texture, the jawline

Nodding, OK.

Going back to your painting.

I tend to my garden

to remind me of you.

Telling us another story

of how art saved you, saved us.

I keep coming outside

Greeting the fading sun.

Stay, stay!

Maybe you’ll see more and take another good look

The hairline, the flatter chest

And draw it in the clouds.

Me cuentas (storyteller)

Eres buena lengua (you are good tongue)

Te explico ahora como fue 

(I’ll explain to you how it was)

Hace tiempo   (many years ago)

Construyendo armas (building weapons)

Para protegernos (to protect us)

De los hombres malos (from the bad men)

Eres viaje largo   (you are on a long journey)

De un avión sin copiloto 

(of an airplane with no co-pilot)

De nubes esponjosos (of sponge-like clouds)

Regalando mi sueño (giving away sleep)

The sky is like my crying

So heavy, clouds cayendo (collapsing)

The damp is like my sweating

So warm and adjoining

Now, all

blended together

Blue pink and white feather

Tiny little sad

Remembering the flag

Every day is remembrance

Of people who are and were

Decorate my face

As a twelve year old girl

Y si pierdo mi pelo (and if I lose my hair)

Me decoro con lapiz del suelo 

(I’ll fill it in with a soft lead pencil)

Y si pierdo mi fuerza (and if I lose my strength)

Lo esculpo de hielo (I’ll sculpt it out of ice)

*These poems are copyrighted by Rey Fukuda Salinas (2022).

Rey Fukuda Salinas (he/they; upper left) is Japanese-Paraguayan currently living in Los Angeles (Kizh land). He grew up internationally in places like Japan, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. Fortunate to have discovered writing music and poetry to express emotions as a mixed race transgender queer young person, art kept Rey going during times of being closeted and growing up in an emotionally unstable home. Rey is self taught in guitar and a song writer inspired by many artists including Frank Ocean, Yo-Yo Ma, Nina Simone, and Pablo Neruda. He writes songs and poetry about long distance & chosen family, love, (im)migration, prisons, freedom but also just random realizations.