October 4, 2015

Untitled by Paul Little
2015 Merit Award
By Paul Little

Every spring I see faces . . .
my high school classmates with names like Hayashi,
Yoshikawa, Takahashi, Muramoto, Teramoto;
fully engaged in student life, popular, college bound,
tho mute about the fire that had seared their families.
Since college, when I first learned of the camps, I see
my classmates as 2½ year-olds, entering a crowded
train station, fascinated by the gathering of relatives
and neighbors of shared ancestry, wanting to play,
but restrained by elders still stunned by the fury of
the hate-fueled firestorm, awash in the ashes of their
livelihoods, personal possessions, and community ties,
blown by hot winds toward places and fates unknown.
Decades later, a 90-year-old widow’s memories add
place and more faces to my vision. The train station
is in Chico, CA; the added faces are a Caucasian man
and wife in their early 30s and their 2½ year-old son.
The man, unexpectedly deputized by Federal authorities,
carries out his duties, registering evacuees, tagging
luggage, loading waiting train cars. His wife watches
from the shadows and weeps, restraining her son who
fidgets, asking unanswerable questions. The widow
tells me that the Federal man was my Dad, the weeping
wife was her, and her fidgeting 2½ year-old was me.
Why did Dad never speak of this? Why did my classmates
not tell their stories? Shame and humiliation are
first cousins. Sorrow has many faces.

. . . . .
*Copyright 2015 by Paul Little. Broadside illustrated by Mat Hudson.


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