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The Departure

It was her.

Fleshed out – singed onto
cresting waves and backs of turtles
Wenatchee and Kalakala
Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, and Chief Sealth
like San Pedro, Jerome, and New York City

The metaphor upon wings
she took on as her shield
her heart beats lashed out
onto the unlikely
canvases of skin.

Elders have traveled these waters for centuries.

Elders have danced with the Seattle skyline for centuries/

The little children chasing their shadows upon the history
of the districts they will soon inherit

her pulse is deafening
she, well
she is an adjective of life.

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A simple description left to complete the imaginations of her children
she writes them out, pen to pad, screaming lead onto sidewalk heavens
scribbled and etched
And these waters have cracks on the crevices she said
Canvasses of poetry wrote life she said
From each smile to every fallen tear, i watched them fight for peace
That first time
And it was beautiful
Shouts shuddered the unhidden blanks of space
even reaching the darkest of memories
Fondled each thought into circulation
she became the word
and I was unsure of the bullet each noun and verb
she had committed too
And she shouldn’t have anything to worry about
Because of her

We will always just listen

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She spit spat drip drops of justice that rewrote bible hymnals and amended bylaws
She said “They will run this world with just their innocence
They will run this world with just their poetry”
And we claimed our existence in this infinite time continuum
While the walls were tagged heavily with FAT markers and spray cans that
they told us not play with
And the irony is we didn’t listen.
She told us not to

So we poets became the voice of unheard and forgotten ancestors
Scriptures that were embedded in the thralls of history
In the hallways of our rich and native stories
She helped us give composition to the faceless movement thru poetry
Independence not vengeance she said
Monstrous redemption not silence she said
Fingers strewn tightly grasping the earth,
Sweat, embossed upon the backs of those who left, and came back
Whose tear drenched, blood drenched linen are
Written gloriously upon mother earth
Its salty texture it became
The texture you feel off of an immigrants sun-scarred skin
The texture you feel when wiping your eyes of the tears she said not to shed
You can be whatever you want she said

And we are because of you.

And we are because of you, i shout this believing in our beauty, the undying love for shedding leaves in hopes to become something even more beautiful so this change we held in for centuries fearful of letting it be known that it was destiny’s calling to release these
Pent up
Need to
Be free
Reach out, share truth, believe
You are, it is, redeem
Be it, be that, teach me
Teach you, teach me,
Teach you, be free

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So together we beat words into equations

Matrices turn matriarch

Matriarch live equality

She sent shudders down our spine

With each breath she gave

She loved thoroughly without anything less than pure conviction

And hindsight lessons of

Love and hate of

Heart and mind of

Meaning and shallow aesthetics

You see she fought off of the bones of history

You see she fought off of wanting and needing truth

You see she became the truth once given the chance

So together let us

notice the roots off of the trees, gnarled, exposed to the elements, and watch as it

hugs deeply sincerely,

as we all cling for dear life,

grabbing hope and love

and the blue and green earth, our beautiful earth

like us

we will always remain struggling and fighting to stay alive

while we wait for

the departure.

Rest in Power Yuri.

*For Yuri Kochiyama, May 19, 1921 – June 1, 2014

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———————

voqceqvzpouusuyjkzmoYuri Kochiyama was born Mary Yuriko Nakahara in 1921 and raised in San Pedro, California, in a small working-class neighborhood. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the life of Yuri’s family took a turn for the worse. Her father, a first-generation Japanese immigrant, was arrested by the FBI. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 ordering the removal of persons of Japanese descent from “strategic areas,” Yuri and her family were sent to an internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas. Due to these events, Yuri started seeing the parallels between the treatment of African Americans in Jim Crow South and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in remote internment camps during World War II. Subsequently she decided to devote her life to struggles against racial injustice.

In 1946, Yuri married Bill Kochiyama, a veteran of the 442nd Regiment. The couple moved to New York City where her political activism would flourish. They had two girls and four boys; most of them would become actively involved in black liberation struggles, the anti-war movement, and the Asian-American movement. In 1960 the family moved to a low-income housing project in Harlem. Yuri and her family invited many civil rights activists, such as the Freedom Riders, to their home gatherings. They also became members of the Harlem Parents Committee, a grassroots organization fighting for safer streets and integrated education. In 1963, Yuri met Malcolm X and they cultivated a friendship that would strongly influence Yuri’s political career. Yuri had been listening to Malcolm’s speech when he was assassinated while speaking to the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) members. Yuri’s keen interest in equality and justice led her to work for the sake of political prisoners in the U.S. and other parts of the world in her later years. Yuri was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her tireless struggles against imperialism and racism.

Yuri Kochiyama died on June 1, 2014 in Berkeley, California. She was 93. (Blackpast.org)