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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column


From Toronto-based writer, Terry Watada and Bloomington, Indiana-based poet, Hiromi Yoshida, are pieces that can be read as the remains of beings past, the memory of memories, the parts of a person embedded in our psyche or those aspects we wish to keep and uplift. Enjoy...

—traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Hiromi Yoshida is a first-generation Japanese American poet, with ethnic roots in Japan and Taiwan, and family in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. Now based in Bloomington, Indiana, she has lived extensively in Tokyo and New York City. Her Icarus Burning poetry collection, a finalist selection for the 2019 New Women’s Voices Series Chapbook Competition, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2020. A three-time winner of Indiana University Writers’ Conference awards, she has been recognized as one of Bloomington’s “finest and most outspoken poets” by Indiana State Poet Laureate finalist Tony Brewer. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and journals that include The Asian American Literary Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, The Indianapolis Review, and The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society. Although Hiromi uses chopsticks to dip sashimi slices and Chinese dumplings into soy sauce, she still asks for forks at Asian restaurants in the U.S.

The Pardoning

The pardoned turkey will live on
unslaughtered, needlessly plump, beneath
its multicolored ruffle of proud

feathers, its engorged neck
a thermometer of its prolonged existence—to
what end? It evaded

enshrinement upon a silver platter like an unshriven
pilgrim, Thanksgiving glory—the screeching sacrifice—the
monument of American plenitude. What will it do

after the pardoning? Squawk and hobble away down
Facebook newsfeeds into blissful
oblivion—merge with the other
unnamed turkeys of Presidential pardoning.

* This poem is copyrighted by Hiromi Yoshida (2019)

She Remains
(for My Mother)

The child that was
cowering in the dark,
a spark, a tiny
nucleus of energy,
with tears,
postwar remnant
like the secret
gnawed potato
in scrawny
hands that nourished

her into the solid,
buxom woman
she bloomed into, the PhD
being the consummation of all
that dark peeling away
from the kernel
of herself, and the two children
she bore, leaving her
and immaculate.
She was
the pearl coalescing
in the grimacing oyster’s mouth—
spitting her out—frothy iridescence,
rounded, and intact.

Today, I celebrate the woman
she is, as we spring forward—
into wilder bloom. She remains

the photographer, (rather than the photograph);
the artist, (rather than the artifact);
at once, the signifier and the signified—

the wombed woman
suturing the wound within,
wordless, healed,

* This poem is copyrighted by Hiromi Yoshida (2019)


* * * * *

Terry Watada is a prolific writer. He has four poetry collections, two novels, a short story collection, two histories on Buddhism in Canada, two manga and two children's biographies in print. Besides contributing to Discover Nikkei, he contributes to the Vancouver Bulletin on a monthly basis. He looks forward to the publication of his fifth poetry collection, The Four Sufferings, and his third novel, The Mysterious Dreams of the Dead, in 2020. He was a prolific musician and songwriter. He has seven albums of original songs to his credit.

Ghost Sleep

my eyes

i can’t
   i can only see

the backs of my

i must be in
the deep
         sleep of


i’m caught in the
throat-choking   grasp
of   a
thick     west coast
mountain forest

and then i see him,
burning brightly   in
luminescent air,
   strides across
   the black landscape

his arms
         strong & vital
flailing   about his head
         some mystical spirit

during creation.

i see
         his confident
open-mouth’d   smile

i hear his laugh   like
he never laughed
in life,
             not like that.

a grin across his
face     sharing the
joke, the   anecdote,
the moment
with     friends

but then I   see:
the wind behind him

[timber, branches and stumps swirl & tumble in its wake]

with the strength of gods
         compassion of the Buddha
   and the love of
   fam- ily


he turned to me
and smiled.
                     the dream
       dissolved into   drizzle


i awake   to a rainy day
   the moist gauze

of ghosts.

Author's note: “Ghost Sleep” is based on a dream I had of my father shortly after he passed. 
He was a logger in BC before WWII, and the strongest man I ever knew. Once when he was bedridden during his final days, he said he saw himself “dragging the wind behind him.” He had the soul of a poet.

* This poem is copyrighted by Terry Watada and will be included in The Four Sufferings (Mawenzi Publishing, Toronto, 2020).


© 2019 Hiromi Yoshida; Terry Watada

author father Hiromi Yoshida memory mother Nikkei Uncovered poet poetry Terry Watada Turkey

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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