Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

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



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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



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When I was in high school, Russia and Communism were taboo subjects; they were feared into silence.  One day I read where poets were the most feared in Russia and my passion for poetry empowered me and I became less and less fearful as I kept on writing. I felt the more poetry I read and wrote, I weaker the enemy became.

Poets for Peace

Each time a poet

Puts pen to paper,

There is a sliver of hope

For Peace.

from my forth coming poetry book: Dangerous Woman….

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Do check out my story in the Sacramento Bee that came out today in the Forum Section.

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Thank you James Lee Jobe for posting these two poems on your blog.

When Will I Know Peace?

When will I know Peace?
“She is at Peace,” you said
When my mother died.
Is that the only way I will know Peace?
When I am dead?

You gave me, briefly,
A hummingbird’s sip
On D Day in 1941.
1953 after the Korean War.
The Vietnam War: 1975

I want to taste it, lick it, swallow it
Like chocolate ice-cream in August.
Dripping down my chin, soaking my skin.
I want to hear it, I want to hear it.

What is the sound of Peace?

I want to bathe in it, feel  it wrap around me
Wet silk against skin
In three digit heat.
I don’t want  it after I’m stiff and dead.

I want Peace now.

NO! I want Peace now.
I want to see it on children’s faces
All over the world.

— Frances H Kakugawa

Voice from the Unborn

You promised me, eons ago,
A world, free of battlefields, soldiers, children
Abandoned  in fear and hunger.
You offered me Hope, again and again.
A world, you said, where we will stand
Hand in hand, beyond  color, religion, gender, age,
One race. One humanity.

You promised me a world
Free of poison in oceans, earth and air.
“You  are the future”, you told me,
“Come and be born in this world I will
Create  for  you.”

My brothers and sisters who believed you
Are now old men and women, and they wait.
They wait.

Listen to my voice, your unborn child.

Eons ago, you sliced the chrysanthemum
Off  its stalk and left it
Naked in the sun.

Over the ashes of Hiroshima,
Our victory was hailed.
Beneath that, my ancestors lay buried.

Stop using me, your unborn child
For promises and meaningless  rhetoric.
The future is now.  I can’t wait any longer.
The future is now.  I want to be  born.

– Frances Kakugawa

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Help Me Remember

A few weeks before my mother died, she came out of her dementia state and in Japanese, told the Buddhist priest:

Watashi wo wasure sadanaide. Do not let me be forgotten.

It made me think: What if all of my ancestors had said this? Both families on my parents’ side who perished 70 years ago in Hiroshima?

I have a candle lit to remember them. I hope you will spend a minute to remember all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you haven’t already, do read my dear friend Charles Pellegrino’s book: To Hell and Back: The Last Train from Hiroshima. This book, for the first time, made me realize that my ancestors are not statistics but real people who lived.

Thank you for helping me remember.

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