By traci kato-kiriyama
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Dec. 7, 2011.)


That fierce mother of mine
was all of ninety pounds
in her early   
twenties while
etching English and Nihongo
lessons upon eager minds
at Monroe High School
in the Valley


She was stern, she was
serious, she spent every
ounce of good intention
on curriculum and
students, so it was no
surprise she ended
up being their favorite


This day, in those days,
was “Kill-A-Jap Day,” every
year the same, but news
to her in that first year
of teaching so there it
was to greet her with
steel teeth one morning


The announcement of
said infamous day cast
over loudspeakers right
into the classroom like a
gray cloud diffusing knowing
grins as eyes shifted on
to their beloved teacher


They never thought much
about what was simply
how it always was, but
in a moment, Room 25
at Monroe High was
silenced by the pause
at the front of the room


Guileless gazes on unsteady
hands holding sweaty chalk,
the room steadfast in
collective breathlessness,
as if their exhale would be
the final blow against
the back of her knees


Never before had they
witnessed her posture
buckle by the shock of her
own swiftly dwindled spirit
It was in an instant, surely,
when that day became one
they would never forget




traci kato-kiriyama is a thirtysomething Sansei who loves bread, hates eggs and welcomes conversations of all kinds – especially with those who hate bread and love eggs…it keeps life interesting, shocking and fun.  She also performs, writes, teaches, organizes, acts and acts up in various parts of the world.; Opinion expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.




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