PAREIDOLIA

by Mitsuye Yamada

See the dark shadows on the full moon?

Try squinting and look hard Father said

you will see a rabbit pounding mochi

with a mallet into a wooden usu

Yes yes I see

the white rabbit with a pink nose.

 

One hundred years ago

Father heard the rhythm of mochi tsuki

from across the ocean and followed

the full moon promising great things to come.

Hope in abundance with celerity.

 

My father

born in the Year of the Rabbit

would welcome

the masses

pushing our borders today

carrying bags filled

with dreams

seeking

shadows on the full moon.

IN SOME COUNTRIES

by Mitsuye Yamada

In some countries poets are

taken seriously in high places

and writing poems may be a crime.

 

In these countries poems are

cryptograms encoded

must be skinned and probed

offending poets like Mila Aguilar*

are arrested and tortured

undercover bloodhounds

expose metaphors.

 

In some countries

writing poems is deadly business.

 

In my country poets are free

to read poems in bookstores

cafes, bars and other low places

trotted out as window dressing

at presidential inaugurations.

 

But most of the time poets could be

speaking in tongues.

 

In my country poets like Pat Parker

are ignored to death.

 

* Mila Aguilar was a Filipina feminist poet

imprisoned in 1984 by the Marcos regime

for her revolutionary writings.

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Mitsuye May Yamada is an acclaimed poet, essayist, educator, feminist and human rights activist. Yamada was one of the first and most vocal of Asian American women writers who wrote about the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. She is the author of Camp Notes and Other Poems (1976) and Desert Run: Poems and Stories (1988), both of which are available in the combined volume, Camp Notes and Other Writings (1998). At age 96, she released Full Circle: New and Selected Poems (2019). With a lifelong commitment to fighting for human rights, Yamada served on the Amnesty International USA National Board of Directors. She is featured in the documentary Mitsuye and Nellie: Asian American Poets (1981). Most recently, her life is depicted in the political biography Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake (2020) by Diane C. Fujino. 

Yamada has received numerous awards including a MELUS award, a Vesta Award from the Los Angeles Woman’s Building, and a Jesse Bernard Wise Women Award from the Center for Women’s Policy Studies, Washington DC. She was a Women’s Day USA Honoree, has been designated a KCET Local Hero and was a Yaddo Fellow, Saratoga Springs, New York. Yamada received an honorary doctorate from Simmons College, Boston in 2009.