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The house is surrounded by roses
The living room is a mixture of East
Grandpa is a rose breeder.
Mother sits in the kitchen, always singing.
My brother Nick's room next to mine is filled
He speaks to us in Japanese, my parents speak
I was singing with the Sunday school
all our mouths opening and closing as one
We were singing "Silent Night, Holy
their lowest key, the door burst
The next note lay waiting
the O shape, when a man yelled, the Japs bombed
The next words got lost. Oh, oh, oh,
coming out of my mouth,
And the world started again
Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces
Jamie, my best friend, yells out, "Shut your
bouncing like a ball in my head.
Arts class, the entire class gets quiet.
like she's been talking about me,
She clears her voice; she calls
right after Marcus Springfield.
And instead of calling out Joshua
about what happened yesterday.
at my hands, then at the swirling
yellowish against the dark brown
right near it. Jap-nese, Mrs. Smith
Harbor. Jap-nese have broken
Even the newspaper that Father works for screams in
I feel everyone's eyes on me. I hear
Jap Mina. I'm not
I am an American, I scream
with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue
every morning and every night. My body is heavy.
We are not Americans, the eyes tell us.
We are the enemy aliens, the Japs,
Pearl Harbor, killing so many soldiers
morning in Hawaii, who were waking
Death to Japs, they say. The voice
a pause between Jap
Mother walks down Main Street with her head
men spit at her and women hiss
sesuji o nobashina-sai. (Masako,
good girl), Mother says as she pulls
one by one, stretching her fingers
sahou ni kibishii kara. (Masako,
are strict with manners), Mother says
We pass by the stores that sell
Patriotic Americans, says a sign on the window.
flakes. If I could, I would keep
and tear off Masako Tagawa like the
out that Nick Freeman liked Alice
blond that changes into lighter
just like Jamie's. If I could change
I could change my life: I would be an American.
We're best friends, no matter what, Jamie
tree together. We're best friends until
She hands me a small packet wrapped
Open it, open it, she urges. Mr. Gilmore's humming
the backyard, and Mrs. Gilmore's baking
We sit under a big Christmas tree lit by small twinkling
A package the size of my palm, so light like a butterfly;
I undo the ribbon gingerly, then unfold the red
a jagged half of a heart. She pulls her sweater
And whenever we are together, we have a whole heart.
When I come home, the house is quiet.
Mother is not home, where she always is,
her hands and a glass of milk for me.
out, rice scattered all over the kitchen
with cloth strewn all over the floor
left town. A note, I will be back soon,
pinned to the door like a dead butterfly.
too late for a glass of milk and cup of tea,
looking like they are carrying the night
from the weight they drag through
they said they are from the government;
answer some questions, Mother says quietly
throwing her weight down. When is he coming home?
to Grandpa, pressing his body so close that his tail
skinny body. I'm not sure, honey, I'm just
Grandpa takes his owl-like glasses off slowly,
of his hand like he was pressing down the dirt
on his rocking chair. Mother leans back, too.
through my head, forgetting about milk,
history homework, thinking only about Father
This year, there wasn't a
Father looks small
Every time I walk down the hall
Dear Father, I hope
Excerpted from "Dust of Eden"
Copyright © 2014 Mariko Nagai.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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