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II. JIMMY YAMAMOTO (from Heart Mountain, 1943)

Papa says we must tell the hospital
about Usagi-chan, because it's rabbit fever
season. They're exterminating,
just like they made my dog go to sleep
when we left Sacramento -- he was Japanese.
And when we went to live in the stalls
at Santa Anita Racetrack, they took away
my radio so I couldn't listen to ball games,
and my camera too. How will I know if
I was really there? After that we rode
a train for three days. Mama was scared
there'd be rattlesnakes and I couldn't see
with all the shades pulled down. People
came to look at us behind barbed wire
and a pudgy girl with round eyes the color
of blue rice bowls pointed at me and said,
Why don't they look like the cartoons?
My oji-san tells a story about a rabbit,
a monkey, and a fox that lived together
in the forest. One day a hungry beggar
came and asked for help. The monkey
gathered fruit, the fox caught a big fish,
but the rabbit couldn't find anything.
So he asked them to build a fire,
and when it burned bright, tried to jump in
so he could be cooked and eaten.
The beggar was really the man-in-the-moon
and took the rabbit into the sky. Mama
and papa are asleep, and we're not supposed
to be out at night, but I'm wearing my ID tag
so I don't get put in the Lost and Found room.
I'm running as fast as I can with Usagi-chan,
and when I get to the fence there's a light
on me so round, so hot, and so yellow
I see the man-in-the-moon.

Copyright 1995 by Lee Ann Roripaugh. First appeared in Parnassus: Poetry in Review 20, nos. 1-2 (Twentieth Anniversary Issue 1995). Reprinted in Beyond Heart Mountain, Viking Penguin, 1999.