The Poetry of “War Sonnets:” Strange Surroundings

In the fall of 1944, Tadashi is a guard at the infamous Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Camp northeast of Manila. He has been here for two years, and learned much about the Americans held captive there, as well as the cruelty of the Japanese brass. He yearns for home, for the wife he loves and the son he barely knows. He worries for their welfare, wonders if his son will know him when he comes home—if he makes it home at all.

Leo has left the army base at Camp Hood, Texas that has been his home for two years. In that time, he has had to adapt to a new world of rules and prejudices he struggles to understand. Now he is adrift on the ocean, enroute to certain combat in a place that is a far cry from the frigid yet safe climate of home. These brief two years have changed him, taken so much from him, and he wonders how much more he can stand to lose.

FAR FROM MY DEAR HOME...1

国はなれ
休み見上げる
月ひとつ

Kuni hanare
Yasumi miageru
Tsuki hitotsu

Far from my dear home
Yet the same moon above me.
Now I can find rest

~Tadashi Abukara
TROOPSHIP2

For thirty days our little ship has plied
The broad Pacific, and in that vast space
We’ve seen no ships, no island has been spied.
We float suspended, lost to time or place.
Beside the bow, a troop of dolphins break
The placid surface of the quiet sea.
Six albatrosses track along our wake,
Like us suspended, gliding endlessly.
Someone above cries “Land!” We rush to stand
Along the rail; the minutes slowly pass
Until we see the thin blue line of land
Arising from the ocean’s vast morass.
Blue mountains pierce blue sky. Almost in reach
The blue Pacific laps New Guinea’s beach.

~Leo Baldwin

1Benton, Allen H. “By a Poor Farmer.” The Wheel of Life: Haiku by Followers of Basho. Nymphaea Productions, 2003.
2Fitzwarren, Albert Ezra. “Sonnets in Wartime.” Slivers of Jade. Fredonia, NY. Marginal Media, 1986. (Note: Albert Ezra Fitzwarren is a pen name of Allen H. Benton)

Many thanks to Sam Hakoyama and her family for translating Tadashi’s haikus from English to Japanese.

 

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