By traci kato-kiriyama

The following is an excerpt from my current submission for the forthcoming book on NCRR (Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress). In homage…

1.  (haiku)

tip toed at windows
a heavy door, propped open
you are the hinges


Who are you?

Older and a bit odd
A far cry from what I was used to
When looking upon the JA elder

They spoke in long verse
A hybrid of Revolutionary and
School Teacher

My teenage mind was ravenous
I needed answers and they looked
Chock full

Who are you?
Where have you been all my life?

All I wanted was to follow them
At their heels, watch them in action,
Study what they studied

They were the Real Deal
Righteous baby boomers
Slayers of injustice

Modest orators with holsters
Toting pamphlets and petitions
They had more than circled the block
I was a tiny fool
Who just didn’t know
They had been there all along

3.  (tanka)

flags fly, afire
practice pushes against code
our theory grows ears
compassion dances with rage
we let our hearts carry both


At my first meeting

I spoke out of turn
Said something lame like
“Well, that is life, isn’t it?”
I barely sensed the pause in the room
upon completing that quip.
“Oh, is it, Traci?”
Kathy said, not missing a beat.

A stiff swallow.
Upturned eyebrows.
Kind laughter to shift the focus
back to the agenda.

That’s what happens during
meetings when the youngest
person in the room has no idea what
they’re really talking about and the
wiser ones acknowledge this with a
simple, even-keeled retort to have us
linger in speechless reflection.

They tell you about knowing life
with seasoned eyes and far less
movement flowing through their mouths.

Mine were the young,
wide eyes in the room
with lips that moved
as quickly as my walk.
In that moment, the smallest scrap
of my mind begged the rest of myself
to let the foot I put in my mouth
stay there.
Despite the heel lodged in my throat,
it was a good moment.

Traci Kato-Kiriyama is the creator and director of Tuesday Night Project. She is a writer, performing artist, educator and grassroots organizer and can be contacted at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu Shimpo.