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11. Kazuo Ito, Poems by Issei

Kazuo Ito, Issei: A History of Japanese Immigrants in North America, translated by Shinichiro Nakamura and Jean S. Gerard
(Seattle: Japanese Community Service, 1973), 422, 429, 448, 442, 457.

Issei Poems


Blue sky sad and far,
The spring is still reluctant,
Coyly hanging back
Under the storm of winter,
And has not come to Adams.
My poem is born
In the foamy springtime lights
Stirred by stormy wind.
Come to term now, with respect
I deliver it today.

—Kibun Miyazaki, Feb. 26, 1918, Wapato

Still animated,
The memory flashes back
To frontier struggles.
Soon such images will slip
Along the current of time.
* * * *
Five miles on all sides,
And not one neighbor in sight!
How many days gone?
How many days still to come?
Today just like all the rest . . .
* * * *
Yakima Valley
And the springtime wind raging . . .
Dust from field and road,
Sand from desert, sifting in,
The entire house full of it.
* * * *
Desert to farmland,
Sagebrush to fruit trees. They say,
A transformation.
But sand in the windy air . . .
Nobody can transform it.
* * * *
The day once more spent
Competing with other men
Digging potatoes.
Harvest only beginning,
And I with pains in my back.
* * * *
Grass fields are waving
As far as the eye can reach.
On the distant edge
Of the vast plain stretching west,
The sun sets and evening falls.

—Teiko "Yukari" Tomita, tanka form

Whirl of winter
I tolerate, believing
In implicit spring.

He wipes his glasses
Clouded with sweat
and dust,
My husband, resting.
For a moment only.
I look up at clear summer sky.

Busy picking beans,
I felt hot wind at
my feet
Shaking the small

Grafting young
On the long sun-
scorched hills . . .
August on my back!

Carefully we graft
These small frail cherry trees,
Never doubting spring
Will surely come and open
These visibly swelling buds.

—Teiko Tomita, Seattle


Work hard, everyone!
Pile it up and pile it up,
Clear to Mt. Rainier!

All my living days
Gripped tightly and pressed into
That old hoe handle!

All my fine harvest
Rejected in the market.
Great disappointment!

These knobby knuckles . . .
Look at them and see my work,
All my bygone life!

“. . . and early to rise . . .”
No matter how early, though,
It don’t make me rich!

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