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.
born in the Year of the Rabbit
pushing our borders today
carrying bags filled
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
must be skinned and probed
offending poets like Mila Aguilar*
are arrested and tortured
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.
Buy Yamada's newest collection of poetry here!
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.