Tule Lake, California 1942

In the photo my mother is twenty years old.
She is leaning against the railing
of a shoddily built prison barrack
wondering if the climate
could get any more hostile.

She is very pretty;
her lush black curls fall around her face,
she is wearing her best flowered cotton skirt,
and her slender legs disappear like stilts
into bobby sox and saddle shoes.

She thinks this must be punishment
for some unfathomable karmic sin:
that all your life can be confined
into two suitcases and relocated
across a remote California desert.

Yet she is smiling past the camera’s static eye,
knowing how very much will depend
on the shadowed figure in the distance
with a hand already waving in recognition;
or perhaps making a fist.

Mark S. Osaki was born in Sacramento, California. He attended the University of California, Berkeley as an Alumni Scholar and went on to do graduate work in International Relations and Security Studies.