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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

I was recently asked how I felt being Asian during these times:

Born Japanese in Hawaii, my feelings are more adult than when I was growing up after

Pearl Harbor. I cower no more with fear.

               The Enemy Wore My Face

Under the rising sun

The enemy came

Wearing my face.

******

              Eh Jap!

It  claws my spine,

Tearing skin.

It enters my body

To devour who I am.

I spit it out! Bull’s – eye!

So what do you do

With “Eh Jap!”

On your face?

  From my book: Echoes of Kapoho

Earth Day

A Poem Speaks

I am poem…

Mender of broken souls…

I file the edges of jagged nails,

Torn and clawed by human toil.

I take the salt from human tears

And wash out human pain.

I flow the blood caked deep

Beneath each punctured wound.

I take the weary off their feet,

Washing sand grains between toes.

Come, my child, and walk my shores…

I am mender of human souls.

from Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless

Dead Poets Alive

Growing up in remote Kapoho, I, too, found solace in poets long gone.

            Dead Poets Alive

The dead kept me alive

Confined to a village so isolated,

So unpaved, so un-vehicled,

So battery-run. Our three-party line

A public service gossip center.

The speechless dead took me beyond

Montgomery Ward catalogs, dream-makers

Until one day I discover an oracle

Within the pages, poets long gone.

Promises of wondrous worlds

For the me not yet formed.

Oh, how I mourn that “breath of ecstasy”

To travel that road where dreams can go

Though not so much “in depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach.”

And like a little “nobody” to “lie down

To pleasant dreams.”

It was the dead who gave me such dreams

And showed the woman I’d become

To wander where they could not go

And wonder at what got them there.

My morning still lay ahead, I still “had miles to go.”

And oh, how “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”

   from Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless

April: National Poetry Month

Sometimes, out of nowhere, someone will send a simple email or a handwritten letter or will follow you out after a lecture to remind you why we write and read poetry.

Etsuko, who is in her 90’s,  attended one of my lectures in Hawaii three years ago and during our writing workshop, she wrote a poem that I later published in my Dear Frances column for caregivers.

Recently she said: You are keeping me alive and giving me joy every day. I read your poems in Dangerous Woman every night and sleep with it under my pillow. I am writing poems now, simple ones.  I have made notes in the book and marked my favorites. These are two of my favorites:

Me

I can hardly be seen

Among the mountains and the clouds.

Just a tiny speck, obscure and small.

Yet I exist.

I exist.

            Identity

Lost and found in

Forests,

Snowdrifts,

Puddles,

And beaches

One can be beautiful.

A leaf –

A snowflake –

A raindrop –

A pebble.

 (from Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Agless)

 In one of her own poems, she thanked me for hearing and agreeing with her. Yes, her message was clear, age doesn’t turn us into non-persons. I wrote these poems when I was in my 30’s, looking for myself and here we are again with that same plea of “I am still here.”  She hopes to have my book  cremated with her.

From Etsuko:

The Crowing Rooster

The neighbor’s rooster is crowing again.

It’s only 5 a.m.!

Let’s have chicken soup this Saturday night.

        Etsuko Hanamoto

Don is a man I often said hello to at the gym we both attended before the pandemic. His wife drew me to her because she came to the gym during her chemo treatment and was very comfortable with her appearance after losing all her hair. They never grew back. Don wrote saying his wife had a recurrence of cancer and had died in January. She had kept my Dangerous Woman book at her bedside and while cleaning out their apartment in preparing himself to move into a retirement home, he found a bookmark in my  book. It was marked to a particular poem and when he read it, he felt it was the last message from his wife to him. “This has helped me so much in my grief,” he wrote.          

A Happening

A touch

A look

A smile

And that has made

All the difference

In the world,

As my heart

So gently touched

Is lifted to

The cloudless sky.

   (from Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless)

My first visit to Sacramento came from an invitation to speak at a Synogogue on giving care to loved ones with dementia. I read a few of my poems to support my message on humanizing the lives of caregivers and their loved ones. An elderly woman followed me out after my lecture.

She: Your poems made me cry for the first time since I was 15. My heart has been frozen until now.

Me: What happened at age 15?

She rolled up her sleeve and showed me the tattooed numbers on her upper arm.

I gasped and could only say, “Talk to me.”

She told me her story: She was 15, her father and brothers were already taken away by the German guards and she would never see them again. She was alone with her mother when their physician came with a piece of paper. “You’ll be safe,” he told them, “See, I wrote those guards a note that your mother has heart problems and won’t live long so they will leave you alone. And I have signed this as her doctor.” The woman said how happy she was, knowing they would both be safe since the statement was written on the doctor’s stationary. Soon the knock came on their door and she proudly showed the paper to the guard. He laughed, tore the sheet and tossed the pieces into the air and took both of them away to Auswitz.

When they arrived, her mother was taken to the left and she was forced to the right. She cried that she wanted to be with her mother and she was told, “You will see you tomorrow. She’s going to the hospital to get treatment.” The next morning she asked to see her mother and was told she was receiving good medical care. Finally, after days of encountering the same responses, a woman in camp told her, “See that smoke stack there? Your mother is in there, you’re not seeing her again.” And she never did.

“I vowed on that day,” she said, “that I would never ever cry again. My heart was frozen that day and I have not cried until today when I heard your poems.”

 I wrapped my arms around her with tears covering my face, “Crying is good, isn’t it?”

She said, “Yes,” followed by “thank you.”

And sometimes, it will come from a young child in your classroom.

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 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 Echoes of Kapoho: Watermark Publishing)

April

The poets, in droves

Lick their pens, salivating

Over metaphors, turning

Death into life. It must be

National Poetry Month.

fhk

During one of my poetry writing sessions with 3rd graders, this was my contribution. Not quite up to par with my students’ poetry.

A Poet’s Declaration

I am a star

In the Milky Way.

I am the crest

On emerald waves.

I am a dewdrop, crystal clear,

Capturing sunbeams in the morning mist.

I am that dust

On butterfly wings.

I am that song

Of a thousand strings.

I am that teardrop

You have kissed.

I am a poet!

I am! I am!

I am that rage

In the thunderstorm,

I am that image

Of a thousand form.

I am magic on each page.

I am a poet!

I am! I am!

©Frances Kakugawa

Thank you, Basically Books, for including my book for Women’s History Month, in this ad you ran in the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

The Reed Family has generously introduced all my 16 books at their bookshop with book signings and readings in Hilo, Hawaii, since 1969.

This past Christmas, a friend sent me a gift box of oil and vinegar from Saratoga Olive Oil; they were the best on salads: Basil Olive Oil and Cranberry Pear White Balsamic. I ordered a few more bottles today of varied types. Look at the email I received. Yes, this may be a form letter but I read it as a personal one and know I will continue to do business with these folks. Do give it a try. Their products are wonderful. This is the email I received.

Thank you for your order.

frances, You Rock!

It was just another mundane day at our
office when suddenly, Sophia took a look at the computer and her
eyes widened. "YEEEHAAA," she cheered! "We got an order from
frances!"

Julie jumped up from her desk, almost
spilling her blackberry balsamic infused seltzer water, and ran
across the warehouse to give Sophia a flying high five. "We did
it! We have an order from frances!"

The entire warehouse erupted in cheers.
"Sweet Caroline" blared from the speakers (Clint is a HUGE Neil
Diamond fan) and everyone picked up their favorite air band
instrument and started jamming away to the tune.

The entire Saratoga Olive Oil team is
thrilled you're a customer! Thank you so much for your support
and for giving us a reason to cheer on another champion of great
quality gourmet food products!

As soon as we're done exchanging
high-fives, we'll send you tracking information so you can track
your package.

If you have any questions or concerns:

* Log into your account to check the
status of your order

* Email us at info@saratogaoliveoil.com

* Call us at (844) 465-4836 ( tel:8444654836 )

Thanks!
The Saratoga Olive Oil Family

P.S. Our packaging peanuts are biodegradable. For a fun activity
with your kids, add them to a sink full of warm water and watch
them disappear!

P.S.S. If you included a gift message with your order, rest
assured that we won't include an invoice with prices in the
package.


( https://saratogaoliveoil.com/pages/recipes )

Is a little learning really a dangerous thing?

My teachers from grades 1-6 were high school grads, the college grads never reached our Kapoho village. I had three teachers during these years, combinations classes in three buildings with a fourth as a cafeteria kitchen.

Perhaps because they needed to pass time, they read to us a lot. I heard The Iliad and the Odyssey in fifth grade. We also wrote a lot since that took time, too. Our stories were sent to magazines and a few of us got published. I was suspended from fifth grade once for writing a detailed nasty note about my teacher. And yet, before I left sixth grade, she said, “Don’t ever stop writing.”  We also made vegetable gardens to sell their products to the cafeteria. We all had an hour’s nap under the trees after lunch. I hated these naps.

What is a mystery now is, we heard and read a lot of stories of our history of slavery. I ached for families being separated on the auction block, the scars of lashes on their backs and the cruelty of inhumanity to humanity. I got sucked in to these books and read and reread them until the next new book appeared. Where these books came from, I don’t know. There was no library nor did the bookmobile go to Kapoho.

We also had one music book, a green covered song book by Stephen Foster. So we sang all the songs of slavery and plantation life from Masa’s in the Cold Cold Ground to Swanee River to which we tap danced. Did these teachers who saw us as deprived children so isolated from the real world, feel they could only humanize us in preparation for life outside Kapoho? And they used black history to teach us?

Is a little learning really a dangerous thing?

My teachers from grades 1-6 were high school grads, the college grads never reached our Kapoho village. I had three teachers during these years, combinations classes in three buildings with a fourth as a cafeteria kitchen.

Perhaps because they needed to pass time, they read to us a lot. I heard The Iliad and the Odyssey in fifth grade. We also wrote a lot since that took time, too. Our stories were sent to magazines and a few of us got published. I was suspended from fifth grade once for writing a detailed nasty note about my teacher. And yet, before I left sixth grade, she said, “Don’t ever stop writing.”  We also made vegetable gardens to sell their products to the cafeteria. We all had an hour’s nap under the trees after lunch. I hated these naps.

What is a mystery now is, we heard and read a lot of stories of our history of slavery. I ached for families being separated on the auction block, the scars of lashes on their backs and the cruelty of inhumanity to humanity. I got sucked in to these books and read and reread them until the next new book appeared. Where these books came from, I don’t know. There was no library nor did the bookmobile go to Kapoho.

We also had one music book, a green covered song book by Stephen Foster. So we sang all the songs of slavery and plantation life from Masa’s in the Cold Cold Ground to Swanee River to which we tap danced. Did these teachers who saw us as deprived children so isolated from the real world, feel they could only humanize us in preparation for life outside Kapoho? And they used black history to teach us?I was that kid who yearned for Hollywood, Paris and New York City, believing I was having the worst of education in our village school. Perhaps not.

I was that kid who yearned for Hollywood, Paris and New York City, believing I was having the worst of education in our village school. Perhaps not.