The Sea Meeting Pele

He explodes

Into a million


As her fiery tongue

Laps into

His undulating loins,

Sizzling and burning

Every ecstasy.

frances kakugawa

106 Degrees

Dead Heat


In 106 degrees temperature,

trees stand frozen,

a squirrel pauses in his run

across the street and looks at me

as if to say, “take my coat, it’s yours for free.”


I sit paralyzed, the only movement,

sweat beads down my forehead,

pass my brow, stinging

my eyes in salt baths.

frances kakugawa

Protecting my Race

I rushed to the airport, late for early boarding. I made it, sat down and began working on the in-flight crossword puzzle while others boarded the plane. A man stopped by my seat and began to verbally attack me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. His wife’s face showed such discomfort and she kept looking at her husband, I believe, wanting him to stop. I asked her,” What’s wrong with him?” She shook her head.

Then while in flight I realized what I had done. I had cut in line in front of him. He looked like a tourist going to Hawaii with wife and two young children. “OMG,” occurred in my mind. “Maybe he’s from the Midwest and I’m the first Japanese he’s encountered and  he’s going to think all Japanese are rude and they cut in line. And he’s going to have a story to tell about us.”

I knew I couldn’t let this happen. I had to do something to not let one person speak for the whole culture  so at the baggage claim area, I looked for him and this was our conversation.

Me: Are you the person who spoke to me on the plane?

He: Yes. (Wife looked very worried, he looked very stiff.)

Me: I owe you an apology. I was late for the flight and didn’t realize until after you spoke to me that I had cut in line. I’m very sorry. Thank you for letting me know.

He: That’s all right, Ma’am. I understand, Ma’am.

Me: I’m truly sorry. I hope you have a good visit.

He: That’s all right, Ma’am. That’s all right, Ma’am. Thank you, Ma’am.

I believe we all felt better. I know I did. I couldn’t let Cow 1 become all the Asian cows in his life.

I am up to my ears with all this discussion on theorizing and intellectualizing on racism, it’s cause, it’s solution and etc. etc. etc. Why don’t we just do this: Each time we leave the house, be kind to few people. This morning a man saw me walking toward a door and he stood and waited so he could open it for me. A man at the front desk of the gym mentioned how sleepy he was because he didn’t have time to make himself a cup of coffee. I know he has no money, working his way through college so I gave him some cash and told him to run across the street for some coffee. You’d think I gave him a million dollars. Later in the day while exiting a place, I saw a man walking toward me so I waited with the door opened and asked if he were entering the building. He thanked me and said no…then as he walked away, he turned and thanked me again. You don’t need to know the color of skin nor age nor gender, right? But we all felt good in experiencing human kindness and this is what counts.


Jake from my initial post Why We Teach, was with me for only one school year so I know what he learned from me is that little pebble tossed into the sea. I sent four of my Wordsworth the Poet children’s books to his young children and today, I received through the mail, a hand written card of thanks from each of his four children along with a drawing of Wordsworth. And another card from Jake.  And this wonder of a young man even purchased four copies of Wordsworth to donate to his daughter’s class. It would have been so easy to email me his acknowledgement but to be a good role model of a parent/teacher,  both parents took  time and effort.  And such joy they brought me. Thank you, Jake. You give me faith in our world that is in turmoil right now.


I’m driving along the road and I see a cow.

A few miles down, I see another cow.

That Cow #2 is not the first cow I saw.


So I’m waiting in line

and a black man cuts in front of me. I’m

upset with him. The next day I see another black man.

Careful, careful, Cow 1 is not Cow 2.


A police officer shoots someone in the back.

Police officer 1 is not police officer 2.

Cow 1 is not Cow 2.


My ancestors bombed Pearl Harbor and I

became Cow #1. Yet, Cow 1 is not cow 2.

Such a simple, uncomplicated rule.


* Semanticist S.I. Hayakawa wrote this on the blackboard when I was

a young student at his feet.



It will take more than signs bearing Love, or Black Lives Matter to fix what’s broken in our our country. I heard the mayor of Dallas advising us to use the right words and immediately he used the word “killer.” Previous to his interview, they gave the background of the man who shot the officers. He fought in Afghanistan, was taught to be a shooter, got awards for this. Yes, we taught and trained him to fight for our flag. He returned to the country who sent him off to war with our American flag on his uniform and finds his fellow citizens being shot by our law enforcers, the most current one because of a broken  light on his car. How can one process all this when this wheel has been turning and turning far too long?

I remember when I was stopped by a kind officer, reminding me that I was driving over the speed limit  or my safety check decal on my license showed renewal time. They were concerned about me, my safety. They didn’t punish me. But then I’m not black, am I?

I was in someone’s kitchen in Ohio once and the N word was part of the conversation. I asked, “Why am I here since I’m not white?”  I was told, “Oh, but you’re not black.”

I knew then that racism will always be with us because just as they would not be able to turn me into one of them, I would not be able to change their minds about color.Maybe a system that doesn’t involve feelings and personal beliefs will be the way to go. I don’t know.


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