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Nikkei al descubierto: una columna de poesía

Surrender — Part 2

This month we are happy to present both a poem from Bonbu Stories co-founder Sydney Shiroyama and a performance video from the Bonbu Stories collective themselves. Continuing with the theme of Surrender, Sydney’s is part of a linked poem with her Bonbu cohort and it reminds us the seeds we plant - of culture, of values, of resistance - in turn help us to survive, grow, and simply do the best we can…enjoy!

— traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Sydney Shiroyama (she/her) is a multiracial yonsei Jodo Shinshu Buddhist practitioner. She works as a pediatric occupational therapist with hopes to eventually transition to Buddhist ministry with the Buddhist Churches of America. Inspired by her early experiences playing taiko at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple with Rev. Hiroshi Abiko, Sydney strives to create more inclusive taiko experiences while also honoring the roots of Japanese American Buddhism. She is honored to create art with Bonbu Stories and is excited to share future collaborative projects.


Growing Resistance 

Between barbed wire, watchtowns,
and armed soldiers with guns pointing at them,
My family planted seeds in the unfamiliar Arizona soil
Just as they had done on their Central Valley farms.

“Shikata ga nai”
It can’t be helped when there is no rain
If the crops won’t grow.
Our beautiful earth is working as hard as she can.
And so are we.

Some might say that they were too submissive
That they should have done more to fight injustice.

But maybe the gardens they tended to
And the community that grew
Was resistance.

“Shikata ga nai”
Some things can’t be helped,
…But other things can.

Culture is preserved with each jar of tsukemono.
Community comes together with each mochitsuki.

Our existence is resistance.
And as our roots grow deeper
And our branches reach away from the soil.
We remember,
“Shikata ga nai”
This little seed cannot be controlled.
But it’s trying its best.
And so are we. 

*This poem is coyrighted by Sydney Shimoyama (2023)

We invite you to view the below accompanying video and read this together with the other Surrender” pieces (parts 1 & 3).


*Bonbu Stories is an Asian American arts collaborative created in 2019. Miharu Okamura, Sydney Shiroyama, Miko Shudo, Kendall Tani, Emily Imazumi, and Vicky Zhang formed Bonbu Stories under the mentorship of PJ Hirabayashi (TaikoPeace), and Dan and Chris Kubo. Bonbu is a Buddhist term meaning “ordinary/imperfect/unenlightened being.” This term carries with it a sense of compassion and acceptance for human life and our flaws, mistakes, and, ultimately, potential for growth. Bonbu Stories centers its work and creative process around this definition, believing in the power and value of vulnerability, authenticity, and interconnectedness.


© 2023 Sydney Shiroyama

Bonbu Stories poems poetry Sydney Shiroyama

Sobre esta serie

Nikkei al descubierto: una columna de poesía es un espacio destinado a la comunidad nikkei para compartir historias a través de diversas composiciones sobre cultura, historia y experiencia personal. La columna presentará una amplia variedad de formas poéticas y contenido con temas que incluyen historia, raíces, identidad; historia—el pasado en el presente; la comida como ritual, celebración y legado; rituales y supuestos de tradiciones; lugar, ubicación y comunidad así como el amor.

Hemos invitado a la autora, artista y poetisa traci kato-kiriyama para que sea la curadora de esta columna de poesía mensual, en donde publicaremos a uno o dos poetas los tercer jueves de cada mes, desde escritores mayores o jóvenes que recién empiezan en la poesía a autores publicados de todo el país. Esperamos descubrir una red de voces vinculadas entre sí a través de innumerables diferencias y experiencias conectadas.