Editor’s Note: The following is a revised version of a poem by Henry Howard that was originally published here on the Manzanar Committee blog on June 15, 2008. He recited the revised version during the open mic portion of the 2010 Manzanar At Dusk program on April 24, 2010.
Ghosts In The Apple Orchard
by Henry Howard
When dusk falls in Manzanar today,
No tar paper barracks
Soften the mournful howl
Of the desert wind.
The lights blaze no more
From sentry towers,
Where guns once pointed
At bewildered, gentle people
Wondering what crime had brought them there.
But listen carefully,
And you can still hear
The ghosts in the apple orchards
For which Manzanar is named.
The spirits of the 10,000 who lived here,
In a city of our government’s shame
Built solely on racism and mindless blame,
Still gather on the vast, dusty plain
Amidst the summer wind and winter rain.
The souls of the detainees still pray
At the Soul Consoling Tower,
Their sole consolation for bodies imprisoned
And hearts broken behind the barbed-wire limits
Of our national conscience.
But spirits and memory survive what bodies cannot.
When the yearly pilgrimage comes to Manzanar,
And the apple orchards sway in the wind
Of arriving buses and cars,
The ghosts of the past
Link arms with the guardians of the future.
It is none too soon.
Fifty years after these camps of shame,
The watchtowers and the barracks
Are readied in hidden places once more.
The Japanese of 1941
Have been replaced by Muslims and Latinos since 2001
As our new “enemy aliens,”
Slated to disappear into night and fog,
To a new Manzanar by another name.
It’s just a different name
For an ancient shame.
History may wear a thousand disguises,
But fear and hate remain the same.
The winds of fear
Shriek ever louder now,
And racism whips to new heights
Flames that should have been extinguished
The moon darkens behind the Soul Consoling Tower.
The lock is sealed on history’s door.
The gates of Manzanar have been traded for Guantanamo,
And the ghosts in the apple orchards dance once more.
Henry Howard, 51, is a Los Angeles-based writer, originally from New York City. As a political, civil and human rights activist, Howard has followed in his parents’ footsteps—committed to the struggle against racism and hatred of all kinds. A teacher of Adult English as a Second Language from January, 1989 until June, 1995, Howard assisted immigrants who gave up everything to reach this country, often under harsh and unjust conditions, and still maintained an optimistic belief in their ability to improve their lives. He began going on the Manzanar Pilgrimage in his first year as a teacher, and has attended many since, including the 41st Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on April 24, 2010.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
The Manzanar Committee welcomes submissions of prose, poetry, commentary, short stories, audio, video—any thoughts about Manzanar the Manzanar Pilgrimage, the Japanese American concentration camp experience, the Redress and Reparations movement, or anything closely-related, including the issues raised by the camp experience and their relevance to what’s happening today. Just send us what you have to the e-mail address on the right, and we’ll publish it here (we do reserve the right to edit or reject any submission).
We also encourage those of you who participate in the annual Manzanar At Dusk (MAD) program to send us your thoughts, ideas, questions—anything that the discussions during the MAD program might inspire you to write. We’ll put those up here as well so we can continue the dialogue (you can comment on any blog entry by clicking on the “comments” link at the end of each entry).
We look forward to your contributions and participation! For submission information, click on: About the Manzanar Committee/Contact Us.
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