Posts Tagged ‘War’

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

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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, the weaker the enemy became. Nothing has changed so we keep on writing.

Poets for Peace

Each time a poet
Puts pen to paper,
There is a sliver of hope
For Peace.

from my Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless

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Hawai’i Herald is publishing the following:

There’s a piece of unfinished business in my memory that I want to share with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans on behalf of a stranger in Germany.

When I visited Germany years ago, an old woman looked at me and began to weep. She reached out her hand to me. When I went to her, she took my hand, kissed it and began to speak in German, tears rolling down her face. Her grandson explained that I reminded her of the Hawai‘i soldiers who were so kind to her during World War II. Was I from Hawai‘i? Yes, I told her, and I know those soldiers.

For the first time in my life since Pearl Harbor, my face was greeted with tears of joy because of the 100th/442nd soldiers.

As a result, in my forthcoming poetry book, I included the following poem to honor the Japanese American soldiers who are still remembered and honored for their humanity while many of their families were in internment camps back home.



In the Philippines,

World War II follows me into the night.

“Stay indoors after dark, people still remember

Japanese soldiers on Corregidor.”


My sixth-grade student writes in his journal

“December 7: I hate the Japs. I wish they were all dead.

My grandfather told me about them.”


In Hamburg, a woman, lined with age

Holds my hand and weeps to me in German.

I remind her of soldiers from Hawaii.

She has not forgotten their kindness long ago.


Our tears taste the same

In German and in English.

We are the only ones standing

In the aftermath of wars.


  • From: “Dangerous Woman: Poetry for the Ageless”

by Frances H. Kakugawa


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Cow 1 is not Cow 2

I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It wasn’t an easy book to read. Her story of WWII veteran Louie Zamperini’s atrocious and brutal treatment by the Japanese guards in POW camps sent razors up my spine. I wanted to enter the story to stop those guards:” Don’t do this. You are more human than this. Besides, you’re going to let the world hate us Japanese all over again.” In the book, the man of Honor was Mr. Zamperini who sought and found forgiveness and devotes his life to a world without war.

War Dehumanizes

Almost a year ago, on February 24th, I posted the following review of The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino on a site that carried an excellent review of this book: http://avomnia.wordpress.com.

…”In 1945, I heard my parents discuss the death of their families in Hiroshima. A child, I didn’t know the significance of that day, a day that my ancestors were all destroyed.
I later wrote:


We cut the chrysanthemum
Off its stalk
And left it naked in the sun.
(from The Enemy Wore My Face)

In 1989, Noriyo, a third grader from Hiroshima entered my classroom. They had moved to Hawaii because her grandmother was dying from cancer. She was a child during the bombing, and her doctor had advised: Go to Hawaii where the weather is sunny for the last few months of her life. I wrote the following poem for Noriyo:

44 Years Later

a dark mushroom cloud
follows me across the Pacific
into my classroom.
forgive us, Noriyo
for Hiroshima
and Nagasaki.

( from The Enemy Wore My Face)

In 1995, Dr. Jiro Nakano edited and translated 100 tanka poems written by survivors (hibakusha) of Hiroshima in a book called Outcry From the Inferno. I was deeply honored to be one of the English editors.
In 2010, I read Charles Pellegrino’s The Last Train from Hiroshima.

Nothing, not the discussions in our kitchen, my poems, the editing I did to Outcry From the Inferno, nothing is more real than this book. One of the main survivor’s tanka is included in the Inferno book. One of the survivors bears the same name of my mother’s family. Mr. Pellegrino, thank you for taking me back to where it happened…”

A few weeks ago, Charles Pellegrino recommended the following book: Hiroshima: Bridge to Forgiveness by Takashi “Thomas” Tanemori.

Mr. Tanemori was a young child when the bomb fell on Hiroshima. His story is as brutally painful as both Pellegrino’s and Hillenbrand’s books. He was ostracized and left on the streets by his own grandparents and his villagers because orphans were considered nothings. They were treated like lepers. His escape to America continued his dehumanization His story lifts the masks of both the Japanese and the Americans long after end of the war. Throughout his journey, he upheld his father Code of Honor and the name Tanemori, and sought and found peace and forgiveness. Today, blind from radiation, he heads the Silkworm Peace Institute in Berkeley, California.

I posted the following review on Tanemori’s book on Amazon.com:

…”Tanemori-san, Mr. Tanemori,

If I were to meet you I would fill your glass with the best sake ́.

Your story took me beyond flower arrangements, tea ceremonies, silk kimonos and koto music of my ancestral land. It also took me into the blind spots of my birth land of hope, humanity and equality here in America.
How one man could have suffered and still stand up to honor his father’s name, and to strive for world peace and love of brotherhood are indeed awe-inspiring. You remind me once again that we need to rise above all cultural, political, religious, racial and social beliefs if they begin to reduce our own humanity toward our fellow human beings. There is a flaw somewhere when our own beliefs and practices in the name of religion and culture dehumanize others. Thank you for not only telling us your story but for making a difference in at least one reader that forgiveness and love of humanity must be preserved by being practiced by each of us.

War does not end. War does not end with peace treaties or withdrawal of arms. War does not end.

Perhaps someday, the word “forgiveness” will disappear from our vocabulary when there is nothing to forgive in a world created by true humanists like yourself ( and men like Pellegrino and Zamperini). I took your “butterfly” and your “blade of grass” and wrote the following:

A white butterfly
Flits from flower to flower
After a rainfall.

a blade of grass bends,
raindrops on its back, then springs
in the noonday sun…”

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December 7, 2010
December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor, 69 years ago in a little village in Hawaii:

   Under the rising sun
   The enemy came
   Wearing my face.

Immediately after, a new word was added to my childhood

Eh Jap

   It claws my spine
   Tearing skin.
   It enters my body,
   To devour who I am.

   what do you do
   With Eh Jap
   On your face?
   Spit it out! Bull’s eye!

Today, I see myself in the photos of children in the news media. The enemy continues to wear the faces of children who will add new words to their vocabulary. We live our double-edged lives. My face is their face and so it will always be. Unlike my grandmother, who could not separate herself from what had become the face of the enemy, I had a choice to make.

My name is either Hideko Frances Kakugawa or Frances Hideko Kakugawa, depending on what document I am holding. My birth certificate carries the name my parents gave me and tells one story. My Social Security card bears the American name first and tells another. Either way, the history of the young girl I would have become is gone. The only face that was left for me to wear was my own.


   A crayoned flag
   Of Red, White, and Blue
   Waves from a chopstick
   Clutched in my hand.

   In the other,
   The Emperor’s chrysanthemum
   On a rice paper fan
   Covering half my face.

from my collection of short stories titled: The Enemy Wore My Face

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