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Japanese Hibiscus

My hibiscus plant must be Japanese. It gave me over 30 blooms this summer, the last one a week ago. It always gave an odd number of flowers, odd numbers being a symbol of good luck in Japanese culture. On happy occasions, we served an odd number of dishes, even used odd number of ingredients in a dish. For funerals, an even number of dishes, etc. I wonder if this is observed in today’s generation. Each time it bloomed, it was a breathless haiku moment.

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I’ll be speaking on how I used poetry writing, story telling and the use of language to help me become the kind of caregiver my mother needed during her Alzheimer’s years. And how caregivers are that group of people who are leaving a legacy of what it means to be human to the next generation.
 
Saturday, Nov 18th.
10 – noon a.m.
Pannell Community Center
2450 Meadowview Rd
Sacramento, CA 95832
Registration is free.
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Tribute to a Soldier at Punchbowl, Hawaii

 

The soldiers stood cemented to the grassy ground

Like statues, while Buddhist sutras filled the air.

Movement would dishonor the man who once stood

In his uniform, like his comrades today.

 

The three-gun salute, the wailing taps,

The precision of the folding of the flag,

A salute purified by white gloves

For the presentation of the symbolic flag.

 

Each step of ultimate precision, a tribute to dignity,

Honor and respect for the fallen soldier,

From the country he had served

With love, dignity and honor.

 

Whatever Alzheimer’s had stolen from him,

All was returned to him today.

Whatever memories forgotten,

The country that he loved, remembered.

 

A final rest in peace.

 

I wrote this for Patrick Yoshida who served in WW II.

The Wooden Soldier

I wrote this poem for a Vietnam veteran whose job it was to fly his helicopter down to villages in Vietnam, after our bombings, to save as many children as he could. Space limited his work. He painted what he saw…children as logs…when the war ended, his superior officers threw all his paintings into a bonfire. Vietnam limited whatever relationship we could have had.

 

The Wooden Soldier

 

The wooden soldier marches

As he was wound to do.

Steadily, rhythmically,

Mechanical precision.

The only dislocation

Between manufactured knees.

The wooden soldier marches

Then stands perfectly still,

A soldier no more

But a wooden peg.

 

But the soldier I know

Keeps on marching.

He keeps on beating

For he has no key

To stop him from seeing

Dislocated limbs

Of children on children.

He has no key

To stop him from smelling

The river of blood

On Sunday afternoons.

 

Forgive us, O Soldier

For factorizing keys

Only for soldiers

On wooden knees.

Forgive us, soldier

For mechanized birds,

Wooden logs and battlefields.

frances kakugawa

Golden Spike:Naylor Co., 1973

Reprinted in Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless

 

Golden Spike

 

The signs were there: when students need to talk

They hang around my desk, playing with my stapler or

Realigning my pens and pencils until there is privacy

For courage to emerge.

 

“Sometimes”, she quietly started , “I get up at three in the morning

And hear my dad crying. I go downstairs and he’s sitting on

Steps, crying in the dark.

He was in the Vietnam War; He won’t talk about it

But I watch him cry a lot.  He can’t sleep. I know because I always

See him on the steps. I wish I knew how to help him.”

 

Damn! Here’s that war again.

No child ought to be wakened  at 3 a.m. by a father’s tears.

No child ought to be sucked in, to twenty five year old wars.

No child ought to have dreams of crayoned images

Disrupted  by black ashes.

 

I wasn’t trained to undo the nature of war.

So I gave her a copy of Golden Spike.

“ I wrote these poems about the war.

Maybe your dad will find this book helpful.”

 

A few weeks later, in her class journal: Private to Miss K.

My dad is always reading your book. And he’s not getting up anymore,

He’s not crying anymore. Thank you for helping him.

Is it okay if I keep the book a bit longer? He wants to know,

Did you know someone from the Vietnam War?

 

“Yes”, I wrote in her journal,
“I knew someone just like your dad.”

 

On the last day of school, once again she stood near my desk.

“I’m sorry we still have your book, but my dad

Is still reading it.  I hate to take the book away from him.”

 

“I gave that book to both of you. I’m so glad

My poems help him.”

 

She held on to our hug, whispering,

“Thank you, Miss Kakugawa.”

from Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless

 

 

Thank you David of Oregon for setting my title poem to music. David who was a stranger, now a good friend, set my Dangerous Woman to music a few years ago.

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fsoundcloud.com%2Fuberdavid%2F02-dangerous-women&h=ATPvn5HWKKU4v7Ww-AvUobhnIc8yG-vnqFQTOvK6vkD7kMC3O-xCKK-qzto_I4YpZSzc4uR64dCxfcm0q_ayPbs5tKeOW_IMSWSJrEGw4MPFs6l5ej_qc0uvKLV7kgBU_j9uE5JRfkf8XV_J94I7Wuzgc18

Hi Everyone,

I’ll be speaking at the National Council of Negro Women Alzheimer’s workshop on Nov 18th.

I’ll be addressing how I used poetry, language and story telling to help me turn the care of my mother into a legacy of dignity and compassion, and to know what it means to be human.

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