December 07, 2016

December 7th, 75 years after the fact

I wrote this poem on June 5, 2012, while sitting at Haneda Airport waiting for a plane. This is poetry, and by definition all poetry is fiction, so naturally some of the "facts" are presented poetically rather than historically. 75 years ago today the Japanese Imperial Navy caught the American military sitting around sipping coffee on a pleasant tropic morning and kicked our ass in a surprise attack on both the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and US Army's Schofield Barracks on the island of Oahu. Today, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. That makes this the perfect opportunity to post this poem.

once upon a time this meter-deep concrete runway
lay ten meters beneath the still
pale-gray long-polluted waters
of tokyo bay

industrious people that they are
old men from noble families backed by government bonds
sipped bitter green tea served by
granddaughters of leatherworkers and undertakers
while commanding armies of younger men
eager to close the burning gap
between a war-impoverished nation
and the wealthy conquerer intent on
stealing away their sisters with tiffany promises and
designer jeans
to build!

and the young men built
casting their father's burned out war toys
beneath the gentle waves
raising up artificial islands which in turn
they buried beneath these meter-thick concrete slabs
bringing in tourists, athletes,
businessmen and bankers
transforming their ruined, ash-strewn city
into the economic miracle of modern asia

somewhere beneath my feet lies a rusting tank
that fired a salvo in defense of
a tiny hamlet on iwo jima
wounding my grandfather and
making possible the runway which
brought me here
to marry the tank commander's granddaughter

"history," i tell my teenage sons
"is never boring"