Internment Camp

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Father came to teach
The American way
Of industry, the assembly
Line of modern life

And fell in love
With snowcapped Fuji
With temple bells
And monks in saffron

He studied Zen
Followed the path
Of knowing and not knowing
Stayed when mother died of pox

The war began soon after
The soldiers came to our house
Of rice paper and bamboo
Took us away

To an internment camp
In downtown Nagasaki
For it was clear that
We could not be trusted

Father died in weeks
Or months of wormy rice
And the beatings
And I was left alone

They called me round eye
They called me long nose
They called me dirty
And taught me how to bathe

I grew in my cell
Into a gawky youth
They asked one day
If I would join the army

Yes, I cried, if it
Will get me out of here
They laughed and locked
Me in again

And then the bomb came
Tore away the cell
And all the camp
And all the city

And left me alone
Alive, I cannot explain
Or tell you why it was
That I was spared

To wander through
The broken city, searching
In the molten dust
For scraps of food

Fighting off the hungry
Dogs for anything
That could be eaten
Any body more than bone

The invaders came
With round eyes
With long noses
With uniforms and rifles

I tried to hide but
One of them saw me
Saw my color and
My race

And took me to a base
And cleaned me up
And put me on a ship
To what they said was home

Oh Father forgive me
For in this place
They tell me is my land
I know not what to do


Early in his career, Charles had an underground play (“Visigoths”) produced in Los Angeles, which led to script writing contracts for several TV series. He hated the work, fled Hollywood, got an MFA in poetry, and went to Iran to teach literature at several Universities. For five years, he edited Seizure, a magazine of poetry and fiction. He has also been a cab driver, Skid Row social worker, refugee officer in camps in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Costa Rica, and owner of a tour company. Recent published work includes stories and poems .in Liebamour, Writers Bloc, Commonline Journal, The Bactrian Room, Scythe, and Blueline, and articles in Adirondack Life.

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