Black Lawrence Press
April 27, 2015

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Lawrence Matsuda

Welcome to National Poetry Month, 2015! We’re celebrating all month long. Each day we will bring you a poem we love–a selection from one of our published or forthcoming collections. In turn, the featured poets will introduce poems they love. Happy April!

Today’s featured poet is Lawrence Matsuda, author of A Cold Wind From Idaho.

 

A Cold Wind From Idaho by Lawrence Matsuda

War on Terror—Border Crossing

U.S. border guards peer through
reflective sunglasses, pull me out of line.
I see them as Block 26 guards
from the Minidoka concentration camp
sixty years ago.

In camp, many Nisei tried to be 110% Americans—
fought against Hitler, bought war bonds, labored
in munitions factories.  After the War,
some changed their last names,
turned white on paper,
“Takahashi” to “Highbridge”, the English translation.

I remove my dark glasses;
explain my purpose;
joke about not drinking the water.

My manner and striped bowtie
do not exempt me from
being treated like an illegal alien.
No illusions about my place
as a lesser American,
but I won’t shuffle my feet for them—instead
stoically accept this delay
and bottle my anger like my parents at Minidoka.
My brief public humiliation
shows all who pass how safe America is,
same way Minidoka protected:
corralling the fear.

I carry my own fence.
Barbed wire encircles me always.
Determined not to follow my parents’ path
into clinical depression or a bleeding ulcer—
my shins are raked by the steel teeth
of my unwilled confinements.
Wearing this yellow skin, I am unable
to walk freely in my own country.
But I learn, border by border,
to leap safely in sudden movements
leaving no remnants snagged on the wire.

 

______________________________

Lawrence has chosen to introduce “Listening to Stone” by Alice Derry.

______________________________

Larry Matsuda071Lawrence Matsuda was born in the Minidoka, Idaho Concentration Camp during World War II.

He and his family were among the approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese held without due process for approximately three years or more.   Matsuda has a Ph.D. in education from the University of Washington and was: a secondary teacher, university counselor, state level administrator, school principal, assistant superintendent, educational consultant, and visiting professor at Seattle University (SU).

In 2005, he and two SU colleagues co-edited the book, Community and difference: teaching, pluralism and social justice, Peter Lang Publishing, New York. It won the 2006 National Association of Multicultural Education Phillip Chinn Book Award. In July of 2010, his book of poetry entitled, A Cold Wind from Idaho was published by Black Lawrence Press in New York. His poems appear in Ambush Review, Raven Chronicles, New Orleans Review, Floating Bridge Review, Black Lawrence Press website, Poets Against the War website, Cerise Press, Nostalgia Magazine, Plumepoetry, Malpais Review, Zero Ducats, Surviving Minidoka (book), Meet Me at Higos (book), Minidoka-An American Concentration Camp (book and photographs), Tidepools Magazine, and the Seattle Journal for Social Justice.

In addition, eight of his poems were interpreted in a 60 minute dance presentation entitled, Minidoka performed by Whitman College students in Walla Walla, Washington (2011).

His new book, Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner, was released in August of 2014. It is collaboration between Matsuda and artist Roger Shimomura.

 

 

 

 

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