“Here” was written by Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma for “Joy and Heartache: Vashon’s 125-year Japanese American Legacy” at the Vashon Heritage Museum. Each of the five sections of the poem corresponds to the five sections of the exhibit:
I. Hope 1910-1920
Young, single laborers looking for a new life were quickly followed by “picture bride” families whose efforts created a vibrant community and a vital presence in Vashon’s community and economy.
II. Struggle 1920-1942
Vashon’s flourishing Japanese American farms became the backbone of the Vashon farming community during the 1920s and 1930s, despite Alien Land Laws and anti-immigrant legislation. Their organizations worked hard to build a positive presence in the larger Vashon community, through arts, good works and education.
III. Trauma 1942-1945
On May 16, 1942 Vashon Japanese were sent to the Pinedale Processing Center in California, then to Tule Lake Relocation Camp. When Tule Lake became a segregation camp for what were known as “No No’s”, most Vashon residents were “re-distributed” into seven of the ten American concentration camps, effectively destroying the Japanese community on Vashon.
IV. Resilience 1946-1960
Only about one-third of Vashon’s Japanese American evacuees, returned to the island to pick up their interrupted lives and careers. Many islanders welcomed their former neighbors, but some did not.
V. Identities 1960-Today
But things could never be the same. Their children, the Sansei, grew up during the decades of activism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Today, Japanese Americans on Vashon are at every income strata with diverse occupations. Each with unique experiences, but sharing a cultural bond.
Learn more about the exhibit at vashonheritagemuseum.org.
How I came to combine poetry and magic, published in Ploughshares.
You can read the complete essay on their website:
The finale from A Thousand Thanks: The Gift of Sadako and Her Cranes.
“Counsel,” composed for the Seattle City Council as part of Nick Licata’s “Words’ Worth” program.
by Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma
How do we build a city, a safe refuge
for many people, a place of many places
where many people wish to dwell,
when the many may have many
ideas about the city, the people, and the places
the place might become?
So many that,
at times, it can tear them apart, pulling at
till the fibers start to fray, till what
had felt whole and truthfully woven
begins to look ragged, and not just
around the edges, where the words that once carried
music in their meaning have ceased to carry
anything at all.
can we do to bring it back together, to bind
the many pieces without pieces
In ancient Tamil Nadu, “Land
of Tamil,” the great kings of three kingdoms
held council with poets, learned men and women
who advised them in song, calling them
on their errors, praising them
for their hearts, teaching them
always the root of all art:
the courage to listen and then act.
So listen, listen, listen
to the people, to their pains
and to their plans, and to the voice great
within us, rising up and rising out, showing us
the next step, the next way, the next word,
the next wonder that will make
the poem once again, piecing the many pieces
into more than just many, where everyone
is welcome, where everyone
is heard, where everyone finds shelter
in the shelter we make
from the words that weave us together.
I’m thrilled to announce that The Safety of Edges will be released on February 14, 2019. The book is dedicated to David, so my publisher, Galen Garwood and Marrowstone Press, decided to schedule it to be out on Valentine’s Day.
If you’d like to hear me read from it, please check the list of upcoming events and appearances. I will be updating it weekly.
If you’d like to be notified about special events and other forthcoming books, please do sign up on the mailing list.
My deepest thanks to everyone who helped make this book possible. May it reach all those to whom its poems may sing.
An excerpt from A Thousand Thanks: The Gift of Sadako and Her Cranes.