Photograph from Tokyo, 1959


Black-haired Japanese girls and boys

sit with hands folded, a school assembly,

in black uniforms, white collars, white badges.

In a back row, one big blonde girl with braids

sits perched, hugging her skirted knees.


She looks at home among these Orientals

at age five.  I remember bowing to my teacher,

whispering, “Ohiogosaimasu.”  I was

embarrassed and now, three decades later,

I realize it was the young maid who took me


to school giggling, the absurdity of a huge

Caucasian.  Oh, I loved fish flying from the houses

when a boy was born, hundreds of dolls on

Girl’s Day, the paper walls that moved in slats

over tatami floors, our futon beds rolled up


each morning, the absence of furniture.  What

will my daughter face, Oriental in a sea

of Anglo-Saxons?  She stares up at the camera,

surrounded by blonde cousins patting her black

baby hair, her almond-shaped, molten eyes wide.



                                    --Karen Braucher

                                    from Sending Messages Over Inconceivable Distances (copyright 2000),

                                    first published in the journal Pleiades



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