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Remembering through Fire

Recognizing the intersectionality and many-layered aspects of our community, we’re excited this month to present poet, educator and writing warrior, Matthew Mejia. Based in Hacienda Heights and hailing from Indigenous, Mexican, and Japanese ancestry, Matthew takes us through two streams of consciousness, orienting us to the gifts of dreaming, of surviving beyond the fire of struggle, of remembering all of it. Enjoy…

— traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * * 

Matthew Mejia is an American poet and an award-winning professor whose work and research explore trauma, fear, grief, epistemology, pedagogy, and the self. He is driven and inspired by his Japanese, Mexican, and Indigenous ancestry. I am my ancestors' dream, and their bones are mine. Through art, he continues to heal generations of violence and abuse in order to unify his communities. In the classroom, he advocates for student success and truly believes that students are the foundation on which academia stands. Matthew began a 501c3 arts advocacy nonprofit, Nervous Ghost Press, with the fundamental idea that writing saves lives. All people deserve to experience the beauty and power of the arts, and I will always fight to illustrate that our voices carry power and strength.

 

ARE WE ENOUGH TO BE FORGOTTEN

I suppose some things are supposed to happen
But who knows
Can we even

Think about the things we lose
Without even owning them
The thoughts we think when no words are

Enough to be forgotten.

What’s left when nothing was
Ever there to begin with
When no one was listening to
what was never said
was never thought there ought to be
a way to remember
to think about the past from
a future

pretense suffixed with I love you
and I wont forget you
but then one day

sooner than we hope
than we promised

is gone. Do we remember them truly
or are they stories from the clouds
to cradle us as we sleep

to start all over the next day.
Until it is we
Who are breath and sound
And lost. 

 

WHY REMEMBER THEM IN FIRE?

Feet move faster in the cold
in silence fires aren’t the way back
no smoke signals
not this time
there wouldn’t be anything left
to destroy if not for gravestones
built by generational

hope what’s coming
what’s coming is
something worth trauma
something worth nightmares
coyotes follow the weak to bathe in
the strength of walking through blisters and
bare bones bloodied with the
someday it will be alright someday
not once will those dreams die
survived in blood in smiles and
children’s laughter
let them be monsters and dragons in space
no need to breathe there’s enough
why remember them in fire?

The revolution has begun
build the mausoleums with the
bodies of the damned the
souls without redemption
harvest thoughts and stack them tall
nothing gets through
nothing gets through it is
deserved it is wanted and wanting
the streets will run red with the

streets
it’s a message generations in the making
for this moment beyond all else
what has been and will be is
fools gold picked and mined
with mindless advocation born by
and raised from lies
why remember them in fire?
The land is poisoned
waiting to be cultivated into
anger hatred and the abandonment
of visions of fortune
a platitude believed to be destiny
a legacy tainted with
now
now
now
no longer is the longest term necessary
its quick and oh so quickly
is it forgotten
the reason
the struggle
standing defiantly so against the sky
with hands only
ought not stop
not yet
there’s something more
is it this?

Hold with graces with
utter confusion and resolve
the wind carries what cannot
be lifted what will not
be smothered burns brighter than whatever
pretense’d message painted on walls and
in skulls
sacrifices are not yet wasted the

edge creeps closer the
ruining of temptations of violence
with petty violins orchestrating a way home
listen controlled without purpose
listen to the falling leaves sing
listen to the snow crisp and cured
it is not over an elemental detriment
a hallowed out body with upside down

eyes is not the future not yet
it ends here?
From these hands?
wounds healed by dust and with what cause?

Foot after foot held out not
gave up and yet and
so why,
why remember them in fire?

*These poems are copyrighted by Matthew Mejia (2024)

 

© 2024 Matthew Mejia

literature Matthew Mejia poetry poets
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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About the Authors

Matthew Mejia is an American poet and an award-winning professor whose work and research explore trauma, fear, grief, epistemology, pedagogy, and the self. He is driven and inspired by his Japanese, Mexican, and Indigenous ancestry. I am my ancestors' dream, and their bones are mine. Through art, he continues to heal generations of violence and abuse in order to unify his communities. In the classroom, he advocates for student success and truly believes that students are the foundation on which academia stands. Matthew began a 501c3 arts advocacy nonprofit, Nervous Ghost Press, with the fundamental idea that writing saves lives. All people deserve to experience the beauty and power of the arts, and I will always fight to illustrate that our voices carry power and strength.

Updated May 2024


traci kato-kiriyama is a performer, actor, writer, author, educator, and art+community organizer who splits the time and space in her body feeling grounded in gratitude, inspired by audacity, and thoroughly insane—oft times all at once. She’s passionately invested in a number of projects that include Pull Project (PULL: Tales of Obsession); Generations Of War; The (title-ever-evolving) Nikkei Network for Gender and Sexual Positivity; Kizuna; Budokan of LA; and is the Director/Co-Founder of Tuesday Night Project and Co-Curator of its flagship “Tuesday Night Cafe.” She’s working on a second book of writing/poetry attuned to survival, slated for publication next year by Writ Large Press.

Updated August 2013

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