Latch-Key Kid

At the Japanese School after
school, I sat at the rear of the class
with my friend Sharon Kido.
                        Sensei konichiwa—
I bowed with the others
when the teacher appeared.
(When I stood I put all my weight
on the outside edges of my feet,
to walk bowlegged like Sharon
whose parents were born in Nagasaki.)

The school was our secret—
the boxes of rice candies, Botan,
male for Peony, the crinkled inner
wrappings that dissolved
on the tongue, the tiny prize,
and then, later, on the way
home, little salty packages
of cracked seed, dried squid.

Ten years after Pearl Harbor,
after the bombers flying in over the Pali,
strafing the hills while mother’s friend
Gay waved hello, thinking they were ours,
here we were.

I idolized Sharon, absorbed
the way her family left all
their shoes out on the lauhala mat
and stepped cleanly into the house.

Then home to our empty apartment,
which spelled exile in my heart—
the shared garden bursting
with cannas and ginger,
strayed shells from the war buried there
that we liked to dig up and keep
like dull brass seeds in jars—

until my mother came home
with my baby brother, from her
job at Hickam Air Force Base.

Susan Kelly-DeWitt | Mudlark No. 33
Contents | Mynah Bird Pie