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So, I just had an interesting experience.  Looking at my notes I realized that I’d forgotten to include what I thought was an important line in yesterday’s effort, andn ow I don’t even really like that line. It dates things, somehow, makes concrete an abstraction that I ended up liking.  Maybe you all could tell me if I should put it in? “our brains regreyed and we flushed the unhappy pills”.  It would go in section II.  Would love your input. Collaboration poeming! That could be a thing. We should totally do it.

Tonight should be easy, because HP and I got to take a group of students to the Jundt Art Museum on the Gonzaga campus to see the “Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams” exhibit.

Trips with bunches of wacky teens can go a couple of different ways. Sometimes they are great, and ask great questions, and act like humans. Sometimes they don’t, and we spend all day nagging and cautioning and consequencing and dealing with the rolling eyes and glares from the public who aren’t used to seeing such swamp creatures rise from the depths and walk among us.  Thankfully, today it was the latter, and for the most part they were well-behaved, respectful, interested, and asked good questions.  We talked for a bit on the way home about how angry they are, rightly so, for all the history that we omit, for the very fact of internment, and war, and conversation was good.

I learned a lot from the exhibit too, about resiliency and its appearance in skin, about hope and pride, and about daily life at the camps that I couldn’t quite imagine while reading Farwell to Manzanar or Snow Falling on Cedars.  Ansel Adams was invited to photograph the camp by its first civilian administrator, Ralph Merrit, after Dorathea Lange had been commissioned to photograph the camp and had her photos suppressed for their stark honesty.  Adams knew he had to capture the camps in a way that would be allowed to be seen, so he couldn’t rely on the grand landscapes for which he’s best known. In fact, most of the photos in the exhibit are portraits.  The show has the photos hung with good accompanying letters, propaganda, ephemera, etc.

What these photos showed me is that people without freedom continue doing exactly what they need to do: they make things.  They set up choirs, make schools, paint, write poems, tie toilet paper bows around potted cacti.  We are artists, spirits, first, and captives second.  Off of a works cited list the docent gave me I found this text: Poets Behind Barbed Wire.

Here is one from Muin Ozaki:

“At The Volcano Internment Camp”

 By Muin Ozaki

I look around

The hushed darkness

In which I am settling—

I hear a familiar voice

And feel comforted, for now.

 

As if to relish

Each step I take

On this great earth,

I walk—

To the mess hall.

The only walk allowed.

——–

Tonight I’m going to try to write tanka, and I’m going to try to write about Manzanar. I know it isn’t mine to write about, but the work that Dorathea Lange attempted when she said “Look at this. Just look.”, and what Ansel Adams continued when he said “Born Free and Equal”, is never done. The work of memory, especially war memory, never ends.

So…here’s my small attempt, which is always, I have to convince myself, better than nothing:

The Manzanar Band

The wind is walking

through the barbed-wire fence with ease,

and winks at the tower,

grabbing the dust for a dance,

foxtrotting the sun right past.

 

the listening guards

do not notice the escape,

the captive choir

has them bobbing their heads in time,

the players know song is free.

****************************

You should try to make it to that exhibit if you are in the area (or if it is around you). It closes here at the end of March. I really could keep going with this one. But not tonight. Tanka is hard. That’s 5-7-5-7-7, counting syllables. And I probably didn’t even do it right. But, the idea is there, and I might come back and add to it tomorrow. How does that fit in with the rules? If I still complete a poem tomorrow, revision must be allowed.  Happy Thursday, poem friends. I hope you are well.  I hope you are making. love, Anna

Manzanar_shrine

 

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