THROUGH THE FIRE: for Nobuko, our Sister Song

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2/20/2012 version of poem performed for the Yellow Remix Concert that featured Nobuko Miyamoto, Atomic Nancy, Benny Yee, Danny Yamamoto, Chucky Kim Kamau Ayubbi, Tarabu Betserai, Kathy Masaoka, Ruben Guevara, Tatsuo Hirano. In homage to the big sisters & brothers—your legacy is ACTION, so we keep moving…

 

They’ve come to strip us of our water and roots

They’ve come to peel us back to our bones

But for the seeds
The tiny grains of
Gold
They’ve come to shovel out the spirit from our core

They’ve come to heed their dreams while leaving ours
To lap upon distant shores

But for the seeds
The tiny grains of
Gold and brown

They came to build vaults and bolt the locks
They, who
Needed you to stay quiet
While they set munitions on the backs
Of steel cranes and young brothers set to
Build concrete monsters atop the richest ports
Sent soldiers’ wishes into the chasm
Between borders to deepen their own
Pockets back at home

They,
Who needed you to remain detached
From your neighbors
Your bodies
Your thoughts

They came to construct moats around our history
They came to burn the bindings for they feared
You would write the books

Where would we be today
Were it not for
You

People with eyes made of mirrors
Hearts made of open windows
Who planted the seeds so
We could discover where we already belonged

So
There she was
Wispy, wise and cool
Seemed to float onto the stage at my college
Somewhere between wind and fire

Nobuko Miyamoto

Sharing wild stories of real people
Too big for Broadway musicals
Too good for Hollywood film
She offered up Love as a
Definition for Community
She was practice above theory
And turned our textbooks on theirs heads

We needed to know
What is this Grain Of Sand
This music
And this movement
And if it’s here,
Is it still moving?
Are we a part of it?  How do we get in?

We were breathless with her presence
But she filled up our lungs and
Flung the doors wide open with the
Voice of a thousand spirits

Suddenly felt the force of
Elder sisters stirring all around

They took us in and challenged us to ask questions
They made us bold enough to take risks
They asked us to look past ourselves

They opened our eyes to the living story surrounding us
An entire world of teachers, our mentors, our family
We became seekers
Who stretched like
Never before

To see

A choir made out of revolution sounded like
(Chris’) chants in the form of lyric
(Charlie’s) laughter through strumming fingers
(Nobuko’s) tears in the shape of notes and melody

To grow

Past walls and streets
Beyond relatives and generations
Always part of the Third World Struggle,

To unfold our familiar limbs
And reach for
Every
One

You transformed our air into tales
Meant to be sung

So we set out to cultivate our earth

No matter
That
They’ve come with promises scribbled onto brittle pieces of paper
That
They came to cut back the branches before we were born

But for the seeds
The tiny grains of
Gold and brown
Sand
That formed a glowing valley
Where the evils of
The powers that be would
Sink

And
Down the street from hatred
Along an ocean of silence
Against the precipice of history
We could be held in the arms of your vision
Before knowing exactly
When and why and how
Our stories might someday
Demand to
Speak

They feared the seeds
And the water that came to break the rocks

When we came forth

Children of revolutionaries
Offspring of struggle
Daughters and sons to your dreams

You have laid a path for our future
You have left your stamp on this world

We look forward
Firm arms linked with each other

Because
You have made this path our home

Because
We have nothing to lose

Because
We promise to live up to your
Song

—traci kato-kiriyama

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traci kato-kiriyama is a thirtysomething Sansei who performs, writes, teaches, organizes, acts and acts up in various parts of the world. www.traciakemi.com; www.tuesdaynightproject.org. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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