"The Process" by Keiko Amano
At the edge of the Caltech campus, A turns back and says,
"This place must be very old."
"Must be the most well-known in the U.S. for science" I say.
"It's famous for the earthquake research, too," A says.
"They have an underground storage," C says.
"When a big earthquake hits, we can all come here," A says with a smile.
"Really? Do they have emergency supplies for the public?" I say.
"I think so," C says with a nod.
"Really?" I say.
"What?" E says at the same time, "I'm sure it has storage of supplies. But I've never heard of such storage for the public."
"I heard about it," C says.
"I don't think so. From which source have you heard that?" E says.
"Someone said that, I'm sure," C says.
"I haven't heard that," E says in a calm but firm voice.
"Wow, can you imagine if some people moved down here for that reason?" I say.
I was thinking about what Fujiwara Tei wrote. She was born in 1918. Her book "Comets are Alive" became an unprecedented Japanese best seller after WWII. The books written by Tanizaki, Mishima, Kawabata or Ooe that I have read never impressed me as much as "Comets are alive." But it hasn't translated into English. Fujiwara Tei and her family had lived in Dairen, China during the war. Her journey took them to Northeast China, then to North Korea. With her baby girl on her back, she crossed the 38th parallel holding her three-year-old boy's hand. Her five-year-old son followed behind her. They reached home on Sept. 29 in 1946. In the recent year, her second son made an arrangement, and she made a visit to Dairen. At the railway station, she said she didn't know the underpass existed between the station and the Japanese army headquarters. She said again and again that the army kept assuring their safety. I'm not comparing the WWII Japanese army and Caltech. No. It was just that her book made me think about trust.
The following week, I wrote the first draft of this poem and showed it to the group.
"A" pursed her lips for a few moments and said,
"But I can trust Caltech."
That wasn't my point.
The week following that, I showed the poem to a poet friend of mine. She is Jewish.
"Need more images of Fujiwara's struggle," she wrote back.
On the last line, she changed "How do we do it?" to "Who do we do trust?".
I narrowed my eyebrows.
So, I brought the poem again to another group.
"You're brave, but I think the second paragraph is timid," one member said.
I'm not comparing anyone's struggles.
Struggles cannot be compared.
Another week passed.
I returned to the first group with my edited poem.
"Who is this A?" a member said.
She looked right and left.
"It could be anyone," I said.
"Who is this A?" she repeated.
I have to stop for now.
But, how do we do it?