Fearless Passing
by Tony Osumi


Hey Obasan,
did you see me smile?
looking like Aunty Kimi, Aiko, Yae and Mary

And Ojisan,
the nod of my head?
looking like Uncle Mako, Tad, Jiro and Fred

Grandma’s got an apron just like yours
and Grandpa’s hands wore the same laboring years

Come speak Jinglish
and take me back to our sweet Issei
To a language my children may never hear

Tell me about Lem’s in J-Town
and mutton in Camp
How you spent your Redress
and how your mother cursed the hakujin

Is it true you dodged sentries
to trout the foothills of Manzanar
and in the shadows cooed quietly
tending Sansei roots
under moist breath and Swing

Let me get the door Obachan
Over time, you’ve lost a step
smile still quick

Your beauty shop weekends
to gossip and monku
Leaving your black dye years ago
Massaged in with plastic gloves to keep your edge
when pitted against younger sisters on the line
Clocking-in again to feed sons and daughters

Ojisan, how did it feel
while John Wayne murdered you/us
when the Drive-ins were big?
And too many backaches and tongue-biting
to deserve your one-room J-Town flat
doubled up to make ends meet


Obasan, Ojisan,
your very presence--resistance and victory
Dicondra, cool under Yonsei feet
Yes, the Pioneers are smiling


So enjoy yourselves...
... but if I may
work remains undone:

health care a given
libraries rampant
kaki-lined streets
murals on every corner
our voices clear with song
Power for all


So, go out fighting--even for others
Redress unfinished
Justice for New Otani/Kajima workers
and more...

Leading our children in the right direction
Towards the beauty of a brighter day
A path cleared by cane fires, Practice and Love


Our actions today
With purpose and compassion
bring fearless passing



Originally published in The Rafu Shimpo, August 22, 1995

Updated: 8/17/02

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