after all, it closed 70 years ago…

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after all, it closed 70 years ago

and reparations were paid…

 

but to tour manzanar today,

to feel the weight of the frigid wind,

unforgiving even back then to people

jammed into tar-paper barracks

allowed to bring only what they could carry,

 

to see the museum,

to read the signs showing locations

of the school, the hospital,

the churches, the cemetery,

and the baseball field,

 

to see the stones that mark

where people planted gardens,

surely works of hope and longing

in a severely beautiful

but deeply mournful place,

 

to tour this one square mile

concentration camp

where 10,000 uprooted people

walked under the guard towers,

under the muzzles of machine guns,

 

is to take on the heaviness

of the looming peaks

of the eastern sierras

loaded down with snow,

groaning with weight.

 

 

 

 

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Published by

sanberdooboy

I've been writing mostly poetry for many years and have gotten a number of works accepted in publications and anthologies. I'm most interested in communicating with poets for whom craft is a high priority. I enjoy finding and commenting on poetic gems in other people's work. For my own work, I welcome polite comments, whether positive or critical.

11 thoughts on “after all, it closed 70 years ago…”

    1. yes, your observation is accurate. i think “manzanar” comes from the spanish “manzana,” meaning apple. and before the los angeles metropolitan water district bought up all of the water rights and sent the water to southern california (the subject of the classic hollywood film, chinatown) the owens valley was a much more verdant place where folks grew apples,among other crops. “like being on the moon,” is a good description of how the internees must have felt. the photos of the folks who’d just arrived show small children, their parents, and their grandparents with dazed expressions. most of them had just lost much of what they owned, their houses, farms, fishing boats, and small businesses. and then they disembarked in the high desert where sage brush predominated. thanks for your comment.

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      1. I volunteered in an organic garden on the SF Peninsula in the 80’s. There were small cabins on the property that had been built to shelter families after they’d been released from these camps. There was a feeling there. It was a good one. It was as if the soil, the trees, the birds had been bringing these people home. I’ll never forget it.

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  1. it’s important to tell stories of people who did the right thing. thanks for passing that along. for many years we lived in san luis obispo county where some upstanding farmers took care of the farms owned by japanese-americans until they were released and could work on them again. so some good stories came out of the tragedy.

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  2. The last line is quite fine. Felt, even heard. It is an appropriately heavy ending for a weighty poem. Likewise, your voice has the perfect weight and somber tone. This is another poem that is easier to admire than “Like” as it is so painful to recollect the events. “Severely beautiful” is a beautifully apt phrase, and I also very much like how you included things like baseball and gardens … to contrast things such as being torn from one’s home and livelihood, gathered under armed guards (and common latrines) as if the latter could be made bearable. I have relatives who were prisoners of war, and in concentration camps in Europe during WWII . . . so horrendous as to seem unreal. But, it is good that we have their stories and your poems so that this history is kept real, and remembered.

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  3. as always, i appreciate your helpful comments. it’s good to know that you felt the “weight,” which i hoped would happen. yes, the european concentration camps were even ghastlier, almost unreal, as you say. but that we could have camps in the U.S. at all seems such a betrayal of what we’re supposed to honor. and look at some of the politicians today, proposing the building of camps for mexicans or syrians or muslims. i fear that people are so angry now that this actually might happen. we live in dangerous times again.

    by the way, i’ve just run across a couple of blogs that you might enjoy. please let me know if you’d like the names.

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      1. Thank you! I have recently read and Liked one of these but will peruse both sites more carefully as time permits, thanks to your kind recommendation. : )

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    1. i just re-read your comment, and it occurs to me that you’ve provided a succinct explanation of what a poem can do. if that is what you experienced by reading the poem, i am so pleased and humbled.

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