In Remembrance: 9/11

In Remembrance 9/11

I went to the Memorial less than a year after it was erected. At the entrance we

were offered rolls of paper and crayons should we want to do crayon rubbings of

names from the Memorial. A young man was trying to rub a name and the wind kept

blowing his paper so I asked, “May I help you?” and I held one end of the paper.

I watched a woman’s name slowly appear and he kept rubbing, and slowly “and her

unborn child” began to emerge. His face was torn with grief. I asked him, “Do

you want to talk?” He shook his head no, I touched his arm, then walked away,

unable to hold back my tears.

Walking out the Memorial, I felt something come crashing down on my head. A large slate of ice had

fallen from the roof right on my head. Guards rushed out, telling me to go

inside to check for injuries. I was with Charles Pellegrino, forensic

archaeologist/scientist.  He said to the guards, “She’s not injured.” ” While

others had stood stunned, Charlie had quickly gone on his knees, studying the

ice. He knew immediately there were no injuries. He later explained, “The ice is

granulated – soft – barely more rigid than snow, and they all splashed apart

into little pieces smaller than rice grains on impact.” I was not physically

hurt but I took the pain and grief of that young man with me ever since that


War Is Never Over

War is never over, not after the last bomb or the last gun shot.

            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 , still playing with pencils,

“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 brightly crayoned images

disrupted  by black ashes.

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

I didn’t know how to banish the phantoms of war.

Maybe…maybe…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, she wrote in her class journal: Private to Miss K:

My dad is always reading your book.

He carries it around with him 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,
“Tell your dad I knew someone just like him.”

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

“I’m sorry for not returning your book, but my dad

is still reading your book.”

 “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 Echoes of Kapoho  by Frances H Kakugawa

Watermark Publishing

The Japanese embroidered a kimono for each country at the Olympics. They did research and chose what was most symbolic to each country. I followed their creation on NHK news and was disappointed that this was totally dismissed by the Olympic media.

August 6, 1945

August 6, 1945


We sliced the chrysanthemum

Off its stalk

And left it naked in the sun.


Over the ashes of Hiroshima,

Our victory was hailed.

Beneath, my ancestors lay buried.


Each time a poet

Puts pen to paper,

There is a glimmer of hope

For Peace.

Spoiled Brats

I wrote the following poems for members of my Poetry Writing Support Group for Caregivers. Yes, a bit harsh but it had to be said.

                        The Me-First Spoiled Brats

 Spoiled brats who never grew up…

 Complain, file lawsuits and complain:

            Open the bars, I want to go drinking with my pals.

            Open the malls, I want to go shopping.

            Open the restaurants, I want to dine with family and friends.

            Open the casinos, I need some fun.

Spoiled brats who never grew up…

Complain, complain, complain

            The masks are too hot!

            Vaccines are political.

            Open up the gyms, sports arenas and churches

             I want my life  back!

Neighbors and families all over the world

Are dying, dying, dying,

Come, me first, spoiled brats.

Come with me.

Be my guest in the homes of

Caregivers, living with loved ones with dementia.

Live here for a month or two

With caregivers who have been living the isolation

Of Covid-19

Years before the word was invented.

Whatever lives they lived,

 Now redesigned into one of Compassion.

Dignity. Love. Interlaced with the unknown.

All in isolation, without bars, restaurants,

Malls and casinos.

Meals-on-Wheels for many

The cuisine of the week.

The only voice, their monologues.

The only entertainment on TV screens.

The only human contact with medical personnel,

Plumbers, repair companies , social workers,

Medicare and insurance agents.

Yet, yet…

They live each minute, each hour, each day,

 Finding joy in a quiet smile,

A second of recognition, clasped hands.

A 20 minute nap.

A life of not how it should be

But of a life  – it is.

   Frances Kakugawa     

Red Dragonfly

A red dragon fly

Pauses on a garden post

For a photo-op.

A simple haiku

Is all I have, dragonfly,

To seal our moment.

I’m honored to have five of my poems included in this recently published book by Center for Humans and Nature: University of Chicago Press.

Your Inheritance

This Earth you call home

Was not created by chance.

There was no magical wand

To stop man’s inhumanity to man.

There was no magic wand

That kept all life in oceans, air and land

Free and clean

So you could breathe, swim, be nourished

Without fear or grief.

There was no magic wand.

It was I, millions of I’s

Generation after generation

Who preserved, restored, and renewed

This legacy now in your name

For generations to come.

  Frances H Kakugawa: from What Kind of Ancestor Do You want to Be?

I know both my letters to the editors of the Sacramento Bee and the Miami Herald won’t be published. Mr. Leonard Pitts, Jr, in his editorial states: “To our credit, we are a nation that has always united in times of national crisis. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, when the Russians launched Sputnik, when the terrorists flew planes into skyscrapers, we ceased…to be red or blue or black or white. ..we were Americans.”

Mr. Pitts, really? We rose to the occasion after 9/11 and December 7th as Americans? Where is your history? We rose to racism and fear. After Pearl Harbor, have you forgotten the internment camps, the killings of Japanese-American’s and America’s refusal to allow them to return to their community? Have you forgotten how the sons of those in internment camps fought for our country under the 442nd and 100th Battalion while their families were interned as enemies merely because of their faces? Are you aware of the Asian-American attacks today that it took Congress to pass the Anti-Asian Crimes Bill? There are more such  history after 9/11.

May I suggest you read Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown, recently released. Really, Mr. Pitts?

It was an honor to give the main address at the Hawaii Assoc of School Librarians conference. My token below to honor all librarians:

The Poet Librarian: Nurturing Literacy

            There will be no Nobel Prize for what you do,

            No trip to Sweden, no medals, gold, silver or bronze.

            But here you are, librarians, preserving for all generations,

            What it is to be human.

            The years spent, day after day,

            Preserving the word –

            Bonding each of us with one another.

            There you are, hardly noticed among the Dewey Decimals,

            Protecting and preserving, standing against

            The harsh winds of ignorance –

            The bon fires of censorship –

            And the wordless act of forgetting

            Who we are and how we became.

            You, a tour guide for our children, you inspire,

You educate, you nurture, you deliver

The something that makes a difference

Just as you did when I was a little girl

Gobbling up all the words you handed me.

This house you so lovingly keep, waiting to fill them

With each generation’s own sense of wonder, creativity and imagination.

            This, your legacy for ages hence.

            Keeper of our word – and the books in which we live.

                        Frances H Kakugawa