Concentration Constellation

On February 19, 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued the infamous Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the internment of 110,000 Japanese Aliens and Japanese Americans in concentration camps because of the so-called “military threat,” they posed. In 1945, poet Lawson Fusao Inada wrote the following poem, titled “Concentration Constellation,” which refers to the various relocation camps that were used to contain these people:

Concentration Constellation

In this earthly configuration,
We have, not points of light,
but prominent barbs of dark…

Begin between the Golden State’s
highest and lowest elevations
and name that location

Manzanar. Rattlesnake a line
southward to the zone
of Arizona, to the home
if natives on the reservation,
and call those Gila, Poston.

Then just take your time
winding your way across…
just make yourself at home
in the swamps of Arkansas.
for this is Rohwer and Jerome.

But now, you weary of the way.
It’s a big country, you say.
It’s a big history, hardly
halfway through – with Amache
looming in the Colorado desert,
Heart Mountain high in wide
Wyoming, Minidoka on the moon
of Idaho, then down to Utah’s
jewel of Topaz before finding
yourself at northern California’s
frozen shore of Tule Lake…

Now regard what sort of shape
this constellation takes.
It sits there like a jagged scar,
massive, on the massive landscape.
It lies there like the rusted wire
of a twisted and remembered fence.