by Bern Mulvey
(published in his 2008 book, The Fat Sheep Everyone Wants, CSU Press)
Time to meet the relatives, only they’re dead.
It’s like a WWII newsreel, all the black-and-white,
the marugari and fukurasuzume hairstyles,
the montsuki, the formal death of kimonos, even a sword
or two. Why am I here? The mother-in-law-to-be
narrates causes of death. This one, stomach cancer,
that one, cerebral hemmorrhage. She fast-forwards
to her brother, machine-gunned then left in a ditch to die.
By Americans, she says. I look up at his picture,
more handsome than I’ll ever be, a dark haired
Emilio Estevez—this was no monster
I am being told. She wants an explanation,
they all do—I know it’s trite, but I feel them,
all 20 or so, they want an apology. And I can’t do it,
and I can’t explain, not here, not before the dead,
how I have my own dead, my great-uncle sodomized
by bayonet until he too died in a place called Bataan.
Senso wa hidoi koto da—War is a horrible thing.
I say this, and she starts to cry. After a while,
she says to me, We will need your picture too,
just in case.