Comfort Women: Say It

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

This is a poem based on the testimonies of Comfort Women.  The link below has an introduction that gives background to their situation and the rallies for Japan to make a legal apology.

SAY IT

For The “Comfort Women”

 

Our stories only exist inside our heads

Inside our ravaged bodies

Inside a time and space of war

And emptiness

There is no paper trail

Nothing official on the books

Only conscience

Only this.

 

What we were promised:

That I would save my father if I went with them

That I would find a job

That I would serve the country

That they would kill me if I didn’t go

That it was better there

 

What we found:

No mountains

No trees

No water

Yellow sand

A desert

A warehouse full of tears

Thousands of worried girls

My braid cut against my will

No time to wear panties

 

What we were forced to do:

Change our names

Wear one piece dresses with

A button that opened easily

50 Japanese soldiers a day

Sometimes there would be a ship of them

Strange barbaric things

Do it even when we bleed

Do it young before we started bleeding

There were so many

Some wouldn’t take off their clothes

Just took out their penis

So many men I couldn’t walk

I couldn’t stretch my legs

I couldn’t bend

I couldn’t .

 

What they did to us over and over:

Cursed

Spanked

Twisted

Tore bloody inside out

Sterilized

Drugged

Slapped

Punched

 

What we saw:

A girl drinking chemicals in the bathroom

A girl killed by a bomb

A girl beaten with a rifle over and over

A girl running head first into a wall

A girl’s malnourished body dumped in the river

To drown.

 

What we weren’t allowed to do:

Wash ourselves

Move around

Go to the doctor

Use a condom

Run away

Keep my baby

Ask him to stop.

 

What we caught:

Malaria

Syphilis

Gonorrhea

Stillbirths

Tuberculosis

Heart disease

Nervous breakdowns

Hypochondria

 

What we were fed:

Rice

Miso soup

Turnip pickle

Rice

Miso Soup

Turnip Pickle

Rice Rice Rice

 

What we became:

Ruined

Tools

Infertile

Holes

Bloody

Meat

Exiled

Silenced

Alone

 

What we were left with:

Nothing

A shocked father who never recovered

And died.

No wages

Scars

Hatred of Men

No children

No house

A space where a uterus once was

Booze

Smoking

Guilt

Shame

 

What we got called:

Ianfu-Comfort Women

Shugyofu-Women Of Indecent Occupation

 

What we felt:

My chest still trembles

 

What got taken:

The springtime

My life

 

What we are:

74

79

84

93

Blind

Slow

Ready

Outside the Japanese Embassy every Wednesday

No longer afraid

 

What we want:

Now soon

Before we’re gone

And our stories leave this world,

Leave our heads

 

Japanese government

Say it

Please.

We are sorry, Comfort Women

Say it to me

We are sorry to me

We are sorry to me

To me

To me

To me

Say it.

Say sorry

Say we are sorry

Say Me

See Me

Say it

Sorry.

 

http://www.vday.org/static/download/SayIt.pdf

Containment Camp Haiku

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Attached here ( Japanese Am intern pms ) is a (very poor quality) copy of some haiku written in American containment camps.  It comes from an anthology of such poems, and this selection is from the Anthology of Modern American Poetry (Oxford, ed. Cary Nelson).

Angel Island Poetry

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Much like the last post, my education never extended to the West Coast’s version of Ellis Island. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of Angel Island prior to this class on Asian-American literature. In order to not  mirror Sarah’s post, I’d like to examine the reactions of the Asian immigrants who traveled to Angel Island through their poetry. Below are a few poems that particularly struck me, which can be found within the book Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 by Him Mark Lai or off of the websites: http://www.cetel.org/angel_poetry.html and http://www.paperson.com/poems.htm

There are tens of thousands of poems on these walls
They are all cries of suffering and sadness
The day I am rid of this prison and become successful
I must remember that this chapter once existed
I must be frugal in my daily needs
Needless extravagance usually leads to ruin
All my compatriots should remember China
Once you have made some small gains,
you should return home early.


America has power, but not justice.
In prison, we were victimized as if we were guilty.
Given no opportunity to explain, it was really brutal.
I bow my head in reflection but there is
nothing I can do.


Instead of remaining a citizen of China, I willingly became an ox.
I intended to come to America to earn a living.
The western styled building are lofty; but I have not the luck to live in them.
How was anyone to know that my dwelling place would be a prison.


Leaving behind my writing brush and removing my sword, I came to America.
Who was to know two streams of tears would flow upon arriving here?
If there comes a day when I will have attained my ambition and become successful,
I will certainly behead the barbarians and spare not a single blade of grass.

These poems and over a hundred more like them were carved into the walls of the men’s barracks and into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station. The sheer emotive power behind these words displays the shattered expectations of these immigrants. The word “prison’ shows up multiple times throughout the different poems, completely obliterating the notion that America is the “land of the free” or a nation devoted to liberty for foreigners entering this land. For these Asian immigrants, the America they first experienced was trapped within the walls of Angel Island.


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