By traci kato-kiriyama
The following is an excerpt from my current submission for the forthcoming book on NCRR (Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress). In homage…
Who are you?
Older and a bit odd
A far cry from what I was used to
When looking upon the JA elder
They spoke in long verse
A hybrid of Revolutionary and
My teenage mind was ravenous
I needed answers and they looked
Who are you?
Where have you been all my life?
All I wanted was to follow them
At their heels, watch them in action,
Study what they studied
They were the Real Deal
Righteous baby boomers
Slayers of injustice
Modest orators with holsters
Toting pamphlets and petitions
They had more than circled the block
I was a tiny fool
Who just didn’t know
They had been there all along
flags fly, afire
practice pushes against code
our theory grows ears
compassion dances with rage
we let our hearts carry both
At my first meeting
I spoke out of turn
Said something lame like
“Well, that is life, isn’t it?”
I barely sensed the pause in the room
upon completing that quip.
“Oh, is it, Traci?”
Kathy said, not missing a beat.
A stiff swallow.
Kind laughter to shift the focus
back to the agenda.
That’s what happens during
meetings when the youngest
person in the room has no idea what
they’re really talking about and the
wiser ones acknowledge this with a
simple, even-keeled retort to have us
linger in speechless reflection.
They tell you about knowing life
with seasoned eyes and far less
movement flowing through their mouths.
Mine were the young,
wide eyes in the room
with lips that moved
as quickly as my walk.
In that moment, the smallest scrap
of my mind begged the rest of myself
to let the foot I put in my mouth
Despite the heel lodged in my throat,
it was a good moment.
Traci Kato-Kiriyama is the creator and director of Tuesday Night Project. She is a writer, performing artist, educator and grassroots organizer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.