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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column


Hello to you all in the midst of October and the beginning of our final quarter for 2020. I’ve asked the folks we’re featuring this quarter to share pieces of reflection, whether of the immediate, or of a lifetime thus far. Today’s piece from San Francisco-based, Shin-Nisei, Yukiya Jerry Waki, is a look at many voices and stories over time that have crossed his path on a journey of moments, and memories made. Enjoy...

— traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Yukiya Jerry Waki works as an advocate for re-envisioning nutrition programs in schools. He moonlights as a spoken word artist, writer, and the creator and host of The Buffet Show, a podcast showcasing artists, community organizers, and educators, and highlights their sacrifice and process in their work. Born in Coalinga, California and raised in Santa Maria, Mr. Waki’s experience as a shin-Nisei offers a different perspective of American life post incarceration, and post redress and reparations. He currently resides in San Francisco with his wife Johanna, and son Sebastian.


From the Top

I’ve been thinking
‘bout the road I’m on
And that road is so very long

And I’ve been thinking
‘bout which way to go
But I know
I’ll find my way home.

A friend once told me
The people you see on
Your way up
Will be the same people you
On your way

I told him
You’re wrong
I’m taking everyone with me
I’ve let them know already

We’ll have bumps
We’ll get bruises
Even bloody
Heck, I may not even make it

But I hear the view is
Magnificent from the top

From the top
From the top
I see my daddy’s hand
Coming down from the sky
He’s saying
Take my hand
Come with me

I tell him

and I promise always to take a moment to
take it back to The Roots
Not Black Thought
And Questlove, but hold
that thought
For this is the quest of
The Roots
Show Alex Haley love
This is the time around one when ABC had its first run
and daddy raised his baby, his first son

I have

From the top

Ditched katanas in the bamboo grove
Before the US could confiscate them
They remain in my family’s possession
And all I got from him was
My first name,
Disappointment in my kendo form
and a shakuhachi

From the top

While as a passenger
Mom drove the car
Onto a one way street
Into on coming traffic
Just to show me a lesson

From the top

My sister has a bigger heart than I do

From the top

I sat with my wife
over cocktails
while listening to Too Short’s Cocktails
and she told me a story about
as she was a little child in Nicaragua
she played with a Molotov cocktail
which had been on her front yard

From the top

Do not ever think that your stories don’t matter
Do not ever think that your words don’t matter

I had a school bus full of kids chant
Chino, chino
That was over 35 years ago

Don’t tell me words don’t matter

Because my vernacular
Is far more spectacular
Than your Lexus or Acura
And that’s from Joe Gabel
MC Explizit
An Aggressive Mic Expert
Who couldn’t be here tonight
That’s over 20 years old

Don’t tell me words don’t matter

I love you
I love you, son
That was last night

From the top

I wrote myself off because I unseasoned
Until I took it for a ride
I took it with a grain of sodium chloride,
Black pepper, garlic, parsley
And you’re welcome
I just gave you
Santa Maria style seasoning

Stop biting
It’s flattering
But call it something else

From the top

I’m not as saxy as Francis Wong
or eloquent as Genny Lim
or as graceful as Lenora Lee
or hit harder than a taiko melody
from Melody Takata
or on point with the keys like Jon Jang
or like Glenn Horiuchi on the shamisen strings

However I do know this
I’m somewhere between
A jabbawockiee
Dead Man Walking

Bodies die
But art
art cascading through stone
Silk fibers
Post it

You get it

Once allowed to breathe
It lives forever

The resurrection of

The second coming of

From the top

*This poem is copyrighted by Yukiya Jerry Waki (2020)


© 2020 Yukiya Jerry Waki

Nikkei Uncovered poetry traci kato-kiriyama Yukiya Jerry Waki

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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