No tears for You

by Mark Kodama

The finger of my grandfather

Beckons me though the mists of time,

A suicide and a murder

Of the most sensational kind.

My grandfather looks like his black and white photos,

An immigrant, a stranger from a distant shore –

A middle-aged Asian man with a small gaunt frame. 

High cheek bones, almond eyes,

That look into your soul through round glasses.

The top of his head is bald.

He is dressed in a new white shirt

Suspenders and gray dress slacks

Pulled up to his waist.

He solemnly look into the camera.

It is strange to see you in color.

You stand in front of your new Packard,

Outside the house you own

On the California beach.

You are next to your pretty young wife,

A babe in one arm and a small girl

At your side, my mother and aunt

Many years ago.

I see him pleading, his body bleeding,

His sorrowful eyes and silent lips

And bloody hands, steel kitchen knife in hand,

Calling for understanding.

America is racist.

We were victims of the politicians

And greedy farmer eager for our land.

My wife had a secret lover.

I lost my car, my house, my freedom.

It is part of Japanese culture.

But I have no tears for you.

You killed your wife, yourself,

And you left your two young daughters

Orphans dependent upon the kindness of strangers

In a lonely place called Manzanar.

I see the concrete foundations of the barracks

That once housed the internees, wondering

Which one was yours.

There are no people here today.

Only the howling wind, sweeping

Down from the cold black mountains

Into the Owens Valley.

There are no longer any voices,

Only the sound of the blowing wind

And the singing wind chimes.

Are those the ghosts of the Paiute Indians

That once roamed the valley

Or only wind chimes?

You place your younger daughter in bed with her mother.

You crawl into bed with your older five-year old daughter.

By morning your wife is already dead,

A bloody rag around her neck,

Her lifeless eyes still open,

Bidding the world a final good-bye.

You are still alive,

Snoring and rasping,

Disembowled with your own knife.

Frantic neighbors open your door

Lifting the fish-hook lock

With a matchstick and then

Carry your dying body

To the camp infirmary.

Did you think about the legacy

You would leave your children,

Marking all their days with these

Lasting memories of your last day?

I have no tears for you.