Hello readers! Every week, the BOA staff shares one of our favorite poems from our over 300 collections of poetry. This week's poem is from Christine Kitano's forthcoming collection, Sky Country, now available for pre-order in the BOA Bookstore. In this poem, the speaker is a Japanese-American interred at the Topaz Concentration Camp in Utah during World War II.
Because they have never seen anything like it,
the city children weave through the barracks calling us
to come see. Our stories of fireflies in Japan
must echo in their young heads, how we'd picnic
in summer heat to watch the lit bodies punctuate
the dark. Better than Christmas, we'd told them.
So when they pull us into the Utah night, how to tell them
these pulsing clouds are not fireflies, but moths. Still,
we chase them through the desert fields, the children
cupping small fists around moon-whitened wings
that collapse, not from the children's touch, but the sheer
pressure of air. My mother would say the fireflies
are the lights of soldiers killed in a war far away,
their spirits now wandering the earth in search of home.
But these are not fireflies. How to say fireflies
don't come to Utah, how to say how close, or far,
we are from home? How to say where we are
at all? My daughter catches one, its brief body torn,
and flickering in her palm. I teach her the word hotaru,
firefly. Together we trace the letters in the dirt
with our fingers. But the next morning, when she
peeks outside, she cries to find the characters gone,
the name on the earth already erased by the wind.