Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Nisei"

This poem came out of the March 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] brushwolf. It also fills the "warning signs" square in my 12-17-13 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.

WARNING: This poem takes place during World War II and features assorted atrocities. If these are touchy issues for you, think carefully before deciding whether you want to read further.


"Nisei"


Kenneth Korematsu cut the wires with careful,
steady hands as he worked to dismantle the camp
that had imprisoned so many people.

The Jews and the Gypsies,
the homosexuals and the scientists,
watched him with hollow eyes
as their lips tried to recall
the curve of a smile.

When he finished, he threw a handful of
severed wires into the open grave, bright silver
scattering over a mountain of corpses.

"You are free," he said to them,
the living and the dead alike.

He wondered who would
come to free his own family,
trapped behind the barbed wire
of an internment camp in America.

"I will never forget what I have seen here,"
whispered Kenneth Korematsu. "I will keep watch
for the warning signs. I will stand guard
against the march of fascism."

He was Nisei, forever between the old and the new.
He would honor the Issei and teach the Sansei, too,
about the importance of vigilance.

Freedom and equality were ideals worth fighting for.

* * *

Notes:

Japanese people have vocabulary for emmigrants and their descendants: Issei are emmigrants, Nisei are their children, and Sansei are their grandchildren.

Concentration camps subdivide into such groups as prison camps and death camps. WWII is famous for the Nazi concentration camps targeting various victims, but America's heinous internment of Japanese-American citizens is much less known.

Fascism is a troublesome union of corporations and government to oppress the populace. Know the traits and warning signs of fascism.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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