by Bruce BerneyFebruary 14, 1999
If you enjoy these poems,
please write the poet at
3441 Grand Avenue; Astoria OR 97103-2621
and let him know it.
[Dedicated to Frederik L. Schodt]
Bruce Berney was born in Walla Walla and raised in Camas, Washington. He received degrees from University of Puget Sound, Lewis and Clark College, and University of Washington. For a number of years he taught high school English and was a school librarian. He was the first American to teach at Chubu High School in Toyama Shi, Toyama Ken, 1961-1963. From 1967 until he retired in 1997, he was director of Astoria Public Library. He is a past-chairman of Friends of Ranald MacDonald and designed MacDonald's birthplace monument in Astoria, Oregon.
The following cycle of verses was inspired by the newly rediscovered documentary comic book, The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese experience in San Francisco, 1904-1924, by Henry (Yoshitaka) Kiyama, translated by Frederik L. Schodt, Stone Bridge Press, 1998, ISBN 1-880656-33-7. $12.95. To make sense of the verses, one should concurrently read the episodes in the book.
Most of the verses are written in ballad stanza. Hoping to keep the reader from getting bored, several verses are limericks. The last episode is a haiku. I have also included one cinquain, Episode 35, described thus: The cinquain form was invented by Adelaide Crapsey [1878-1914] and so called because it consists of five lines, which are of two, four, six, eight, and two syllables respectively. It is an American equivalent of the Japanese haiku or tanka. --Babette Deutsch, Poetry Handbook, Funk & Wagnalls Co, 1962.
Note: English is shown in this common style of type. Japanese is in italics. PIDGIN ENGLISH IS IN SMALL CAPS. Long Japanese vowels have been shortened as they mess up English rhythm. This also has the effect of "pidgin Japanese" which is in the spirit of this project. Occasionally, stressed syllables are in bold face as a help to the reader.
I must be as careful with bilingual rhymes,
As an economic cook,
While I carefully try to versify
Fred Schodt's favorite comic book.
The artist's a Japanese who's known
As Henry Y. Kiyama.
"I'll have to remember to send the book
With love and a kiss to my mama."
1. Arrival in San Francisco
Twenty stormy days at sea,
Why did we ever go?
It might have been that all our friends
Were saying ikimasho!
I used to get good grades in school,
I even wrote a POME.
If I don't peel the spuds just right,
The keto will say, "Go home!"
Early to rise and late to bed
Is now the life of our poor Fred.
See him fall and watch him crawl,
Then listen to the keto bawl.
very bright and very strong,
If you want a schoolboy,
So cleaning a stove is easy as pie
Even if it is omoi.
Back in Japan when we take baths,
Our backs the jochu will scrub,
But here you'd better think again,
When the lady is in the tub!
"HALLOW my dear little parrot, dear,
Do you want a CRACKA?"
But the backward bird could just be heard
To answer, " Tare-baka!"
"My pals and I are very poor,
Too bad the dog my lunch ate."
If Madam learns you drank the milk,
Your employment she will truncate.
Gosh, it's good to be off work,
Let's have a night on the town.
How 'bout Chinese noodles and two-bit girls
Till the cable cars have shut down?
Gosh, these hills are mighty steep,
First fun, and then comes pain,
"Hold up," said the thug... "Don't you move."
It's a shabby way to gain!
"I'll have to borrow the Mister's clothes,
The dorobo got mine."
So to the clinic Charlie went,
The doctor was very kind.
"SO SOLLY I BLOKE THE COOKIE JAR,
It made a lot of noise."
But accidents will happen fast
To Japanese schoolboys.
11. Mistaken Identity
"It's school vacation, so quit your job,
We'll do better on a farm."
But it's no Jap schoolboy the lady finds;
He's a consul. But there's no harm.
12. Working on a Farm
Sleeping on straw is just the thing
For our two blanket boys;
But the reclaimed land isn't so grand;
It's the shaking that annoys.
13. Working on a Farm
Look at my hands. These blisters hurt,
Why are we working here?
Changing to a highland job
Would give us a little cheer.
14. Working on a Farm
"Crows who try to be cormorants drown,"
Is a typical Japanese saying;
Frank and Charlie should've been working,
'Stead of having so much fun playing.
15. News of a Parent's Death
"A lot of mail, but none from Dad,
My God! This says he's dead!"
In Charlie's grief, he drank too much,
He must have lost his head.
So to Henry he goes to be consoled,
To the country Henry takes him.
But sadly he sees a cemeter y;
The crematory shakes him.
"It seems like ages since I came here,
And all I've done is waste time.
I'll do some gambling...may get rich;
Maybe now's my ace-time."
"One man loses, and the other man wins."
Our Charlie won only rice.
Henry and Frank, they both agree
That he should take their advice.
"It's a good time to bet on a card.
Getting rich won't be very hard.
They'll call me a king,
And one other thing,
I won't be a damn bas tard.
19. The Shoe Salesman
some chop suey?"
The geisha did ask Frank.
When he realized it was but a dream,
His rising spirits sank.
20. The Great San Francisco Quake
Bamboo groves are surely safe
When land begins to quake.
This morning possessions were very fine,
But now they're a real head ache!
21.The Great San Francisco Quake
With martial law, we can't complain
About the American army.
We dug a latrine to keep ladies clean.
I wish one of 'em would charm me.
22.The Great San Francisco Quake
"The crab digs a hole that suits its shell,
Our home now will be this tent."
With some tabemona, they followed an onna,
Right past the guard they went.
23. The Great San Francisco Quake
up! Let's start our own cafe;
We'll be a huge success.
A jishin no sensei came their way.
A rock made his head a mess.
24. Plain Cook
Frank was hired as a family cook;
He had to roast a chicken.
Too late he heard one should clean the bird,
So the diners not to sicken.
25. Work in a Store
Charlie applies to clerk in a store,
He's tired of washing dishes.
But it's menial work: surely not a clerk,
It sure doesn't suit his wishes.
26. The Crisis over Japanese School Children
When California banned Jap students,
The heads of state intervened.
Then to a large family Charlie's exposed,
His trousers need to be cleaned.
27. Japanese Immigrants Arriving via Hawaii
Charlie goes to the 'Frisco dock
And saw immigrants this land to share,
But when he's ashamed to help someone,
He pretends he doesn't care.
28.Japanese Immigrants Arriving via Hawaii
immigrants moved in hog carts
America's far from heaven.
The Japan ese Exclusion Act
Began in 1907.
29. Frank and Charlie Enjoy an "Illumination" Show
While watching navy searchlights streak,
Talk entertains our blockheads.
But getting sleepy with serious subjects,
They accidently knock heads.
30. A Visit by the President
When you're short, it's hard to see a parade
When everyone else is standing.
But the marching band, and the president grand...
Our experience is expanding.
31. When the Golden Gate Bank Failed
"Little and often fills the purse."
Is a worthy Japanese saying.
They each start a bank account to see their savings mount,
But the bank that has failed isn't paying.
32. The Panama Pacific International Exposition
Charlie spends a day at the fair
Doing more than drinking tea.
His investment in a pretty maid
Really surprised Hen ry!
33.The Panama Pacific International Exposition
A little red hat and a pretty blue dress
Is what she decided to wear.
But the woman he hugged had a fearsome mug.
He machigaimashita, I fear.
34.The Panama Pacific International Exposition
An upper class princess, the teahouse girl?
Frank thinks she's a little strange.
But while waiting on an amusement ride,
The boys get stuck out of range.
35. The Panama Pacific International Exposition(A cinquain)
A fascinating dance...
I feel I could live forever.
36. The Rice of Colusa
"It's great to see you guys again,"
Fred said when he came back.
That night in bed, old Charlie cried,
"I'm having a rice attack!"
37.The Rice of Colusa
So they invested several grand
To grow a crop of grain,
But it rained so hard on all the land,
The rice washed down the drain.
38.The Rice of Colusa
The doctor wants to get ahead,
So he invests in rice,
But the market goes down, it's really dead,
The doctor should have thought twice.
39.The Rice of Colusa
The bald headed man
Bet on Colusa rice.
But her janitor husband had the last laugh;
She shouldn't have rolled the dice.
40. Picture Brides
His face was kicked by a horse.
Now he's not so handsome, of course.
But he sent a good photo,
To pretty Miss Goto,
And now he's full of remorse.
The bride has arrived, hotel is reserved,
"And now, my dear, you're mine."
On seeing his face, her anguish is real,
" BUT AFTER THE CLOUD THE SUN IS SHINE."
Wishing for marriage is Fred,
He needs to move ahead.
He sends a shashin<
And starts to dream
Of a sturdy double bed.
Well, Fred's wife turned out to be large.
Her nickname should have been "Sarge."
But after a while
With a wee bit of guile,
Fred learned just how to take charge.
44. The Great War in Europe
Charlie and Frank now talk of the war---
Of European bunkers.
Then taking a walk Charlie falls.
In a sewer most briefly he hunkers.
45.The Great War in Europe
CHARIE, I prayed for your return
From your army years---no vacations!"
He expected to vote, but we sadly note,
Citizenship's denied to Asians.
Frank and Charlie are talking in bed
About the Spanish flu.
Since the King of Spain had it first,
It's a royal disease in their view.
"The better the sake, the lighter the load,"
We love our milk made of rice.
We have a new friend; we'll see him again.
He's the milk-loving, thirsty police.
48. The Turlock Incident
"Get away from our White town!"
To Japs the rednecks yelled.
"Get on, now, scoot, or you all we'll shoot!"
From Turlock they were propelled.
The labor contractor was very laid back;
He didn't go berserk.
"To be a farm worker and then catch hell
Is all in a good day's work."
49. The Alien Land Act
Fred and his wife in seven years
Had six little kodomo.
"The only way for us to thrive
Is having MO AND MO."
50. Meant for Each Other
Charlie has help to find a bride
With a little deception.
Though neither are rich, they have love between,
And no problem with conception.
51. Mutual Downfall
feed their kids, they be
gan a fruit
And when they looked out the door,
They saw compe tition had come full bore.
The new fruit store, Bargains Galore!
Four green fishing floats...
Rolling for years on the beach.
Then...the waves take two.
Episode 1Ikimasho= Let's go.
Episode 2Keto= White person (slang). Here, the "housewife"
Episode 4Omoi= Heavy
Episode 5Jochu = Maid, servant
Episode 6Tare-baka = baka-tare, or "You fool!" I reversed it to force the rhyme, hence the reference to the "backward bird."
Episode 9Dorobo = Thief
Episode 22Tabemona = Tabemono = food.
I misspelled it on purpose so it would rhyme with onna.
Episode 23Jishin no sensei = Professor of earthquakes
Episode 33Machigaimashita = Made a mistake
Episode 39Man no mama-san = Man's wife
Episode 42Shashin = Photo
Episode 49Kodomo =Children
Contents on this page copyright (c) Bruce Berney, 1999
http://www.jai2.com/HKBBPTRY.htm Revised -- October 04, 2008