the garden at higo

Poem by Alan Chong Lau

1

an imaginary page from chiyo murakami’s diary 1936

south washington
main
king
weller
lane
dearborn
jackson

these were the streets
that formed
seattle’s nihonmachi
our store on
south weller was started by
my parents sanzo
and matsuyo
this was my home
until I was 22

bedridden from tuberculosis
i gaze out
my bedroom window
to the grass below

see our dog skippy
tail wagging
under the japanese pear tree
nihonmachi kids
play fort
with our cardboard boxes
taking aim
with pea shooters

when we burn
everything up in the yard
orange flames
lick a cloudy sky

unable to sleep
i can hear
the hushed prayers
of okā-san, otō-san
aya, kay and masa
slip up the stairs

i wish i could help
decorate the store
for xmas
but i’ll be gone
before this whole neighborhood
disappears

The view from Chiyo’s window by Alan Lau. Watercolor on rice paper, 2017.

2

kobo comes to higo

after the war
there were the missing and the dead
not everyone came back
dispersed to wherever
they could find work

but those who did
found the higo store
still standing
saved by a pawn shop neighbor

home again
for those
starting interrupted lives
over in the re-assembled
architecture
that follows hysteria

like the emblem
of a frog
that once graced
advertisements on
a fading theatre wall

the murakami store
returns
from a patch of weeds
surrounded from city streets
a garden emerges
for the living

and yes, the branches
of this 100 year-old tree
where children
once played
still bear fruit

 

To the memory of the Higo Variety Store and Binko and John, owners of KOBO at Higo

read a garden grows in nihonmachi
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