New poem on a terrible anniversary:


So the smiling little boy stared up with lots of no cynicism
His eyes like newly hatched birdies in first sun
His teeth unknowing of guile
At the nice Caucasian lady bending over
his All-American Japanese-ness
A plump go-to-church lady angry enough
To believe in Christ
Billowy floral dress perfume sweat
It’s-all-right arm around his back
Around his best clothes
His shiny brown shoes his too-big trousers with the cuffs
made by mom his Sunday jacket
His wonderful, wonderful beige felt hat
he loved so well
Mom was nearby with dignity
They were home now
Home from Heart Mountain
Home was where the heart wasn’t
If you were Issei or Nisei in 1942
You were invited to bunk at the Nowhere Inn
on Desolation Row
With the ice wind and barbed wire
hot and cold machine gun nests
All the betray you could eat
He sat
Just off the train
In morning L.A. light
on his suitcase, a sturdy thing with metal on the corners
For rough riding
His Wyoming sun deep brown face
His big little boy ears
His church lady guide comfort
And his blanket
His blanket
Rolled and tied to his suitcase with thick twine
Twice wrapped and expert knot of course that
Dad knew
His blanket
That protected him from Heart Mountain
Warded off machine gun nests and barbed wire and
His blanket
Wrapped in a newspaper from a day or two before
A torn newspaper with torn headline still legible
The name of a place
A place where little Nisei boys did not come home from
with the beige felt hats they loved so well
And sturdy suitcase with metal corners
Hiroshima A-Bomb, said the headline
And the little boy smiled
at the nice Caucasian church lady
in his All-American Japanese-ness
His eyes like newly hatched birdies in first sun.

                — Rip Rense


Rip Rense is a Los Angeles journalist, writer and poet. Author of several novels and short story collections, his poems have been published in ‘Psychological Perspectives,’  the quarterly journal of the C.G. Jung Institute, and presented at Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA. His most recent volume of poetry, ‘While Monsters,’ was published this year and includes this poem which he has generously offered for publication in ThisCantBeHappening!