Mr. Takaji Being Photographed

Since the current trend in publication is to not allow submissions that have already been published (including on blogs), I’ll likely not be posting new poetry here.  I will, however, share recently published poems with you.  Here’s the latest, published in the Summer 2010 issue of the Naugatuck River Review.  This poem was originally written in tercets; however, due to page constraints, I had to shift it to quatrains to avoid publishing it with broken lines.

Mr. Takaji Being Photographed

Mr. Takaji checks in on me from time to time,
from the upstairs office  where he sits  
all night— faded flag on the wall, a letter
from President Clinton in a dusty wooden frame.

The regulars seep in, buy hot coffee, bags of chips,
after the bars have closed. They linger like boys
loitering in halls, carry with them a conversation, angry
talk about the Muslims in our town. George snorts

at headlines: Harassment, vandalism a reality
for Muslim-Americans, draws a finger, slow,
across his throat. Mr. Takaji comes down from his loft, 
holds a picture, in his hand, in the air: 

a young boy stands mug-shot-style in front of a chart,
his name white letters below his chin. Inscribed
on the frame: Tule Lake, 1945
Do you see this? he asks. Everyone here knows the story:

the dusty, ill-attended Labor Day parade; boys in rows 
saluting behind concertina wire; aging grandparents 
slowly sinking into desert floor.  His voice resonates.  
Their heads nod as if on a single spring.

The fluorescent lights flicker and whirr.  Everything
looks yellow.  His hand shakes.  I turn and look
at the regulars, their faces ashen, awkward. 
They line up, pay for their drinks. The bell jangles

their departure. They leave him standing there,
black and white photo hanging mid-air.  The glass rattles 
in the frame as he drops it, heavy
on the counter, slowly shuffles back up the stairs.

Hang that on the wall, he says from the top, his voice,
a tired whisper.  I turn and look up,
he is wiping his glasses with the bottom of his shirt,
he is wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

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