W. Todd Kaneko: Remembering Minidoka
As 2011 draws to a close, we’re featuring some highlights from our publication year with selections from Issues 9 and 10. W. Todd Kaneko’s “Remembering Minidoka” appears in Issue 10 of The Los Angeles Review.
W. Todd Kaneko
And with the camps came extremely significant designations and
distinctions that are with us to this very day: “What camp were
you in?” Or as my great-grandchildren in the next century will
say: “What camp were they in?”
—Lawson Fusao Inada, Legends from Camp
There’s no place like home.
—Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz
My grandmother remembered little about Minidoka
because her husband remembered it for them both—
fabricating home from splintered timber and
a lingering taste of horses. She remembered life
before the war—dancing with her husband
in hay-filled barns, fearless walks across
meadow and township, through forests deep
with greedy tigers, through Chinatown.
After the war, she rebuilt her family in that house
brimming with shadows, the forgotten odor
of livestock. After her husband died, she reread
old newspapers in the dim light of her living
room, she gazed at outlines of barbed wire
just beyond her curtains.
My father remembers Minidoka differently—
I remember it all wrong, he says, then explains
how the crows kept him awake, their sorrow
drizzling through morning. When the wolf loped
into camp, my father climbed on its back, rode it
through laundry lines, his fingers digging into fur
reeking of brimstone. He battled hordes of rats
in the hollyhocks, drove them out of gardens
and into fissures beneath other families’ barracks.
The memories I have are all that I have,
my father says. They’re just memories—
flocks of sheep devoured hillsides
like earthbound clouds, the hills
caught fire and set the sky ablaze for days,
the children were set to play
cat’s cradle only to find they had no thumbs,
all they had were hooves.
When I visited Minidoka, all that remained
was a scar—that debris of family reclaimed
by the earth, that rubble of guard towers
left like broken mousetraps in the remote
curves of the yard. My grandfather’s great hands
are buried out somewhere in the thistles.
My father’s childhood lies overrun
by knotweed because this is all we have.—
the landscape is coated with a black sheen
of memory. The land feels nothing.