STONE RETURNS TO MANZANAR
The hotel’s quiet as a teapot. The storms
thirty miles east.
Her mother’s sleeping beside her father, their bodies
barely touching. She drops me
into her left pocket
and slips into the night to stand in the field
and summon ghosts.
How to ask her to be so still
the desert flowers coalesce around her
like sky’s chorus at dawn?
She can’t. She paces the length
of the barrack blocks
the dead weight of midnight like a sea
she can breathe in.
Her thumb and forefinger smooth my body
for certainty’s sake but no matter—
I’m worn. I’m tired
of their histories. When I dream
I dream of silence so vast
it packs tight the space
beneath the canopy of stars.
It bears down like hail. It threatens
to swallow. What I have of a heart skips
beats till the long pauses
between them turn to ash.
September in the city—
sidewalks collecting a season of death, night coming on
like a stream of headlights
at 5pm. You wander the towers and shadows
with your long coat on, your blackest boots.
I write letters to the coming snow
with a block of charcoal on the top floor
of an abandoned building: Dear bright white
falling wings, dear winter madness
and the ice brigade,
dear children in red coats dotting
the slopes of Brooklyn:
a soldier from my hometown
died yesterday in a place where the news says
it’s always summer. His best friend etched with blood-ink
his name across his chest
along with the dates
and a picture of two guns pointing out like wings
to the beginning and end
of human time.
Dear Rowan of the valley, dear city in September,
dear man I recall for the blackest boots:
look what I did for you.
Look what I’ll do for you
till you wake from the desert of sleepless dreaming
and tell me to stop.
My father scatters his father’s ashes
alone in the Sierras. The light is fading fast
like the idea of innocence
belonging to a place
and a time. In the hour of lions after dusk
did my father sit
waiting for ghosts to depart
or did he drive to the valley
where we waited with loose basil
and homework pencils
scattered around us on the kitchen floor?
I remember nothing right
says my sister.
But I remember everything:
the fire-smoke in summer
descending from the foothills
and the way he always saved us
and the way he left us there to die.
BRYNN SAITO is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press (2013). She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace, a chapbook of poetry from Diode Editions. Brynn was born and raised in the Central Valley of California to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, Pleiades, and Drunken Boat.