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.
from Sending Messages Over Inconceivable Distances (copyright 2000),
first published in the journal Pleiades
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