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Critical Race Theory

50 Paper Cranes of Peace with the names of the victims

50 Paper Cranes of Peace with the names of the victims. By EvokeArtPhotography - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link.

For my fifth-grade teacher, who handed me a book

But what could I have known–dumb
and white and 10-years-old in
that springtime of Bull Connor
and Bombingham?

That year, Mr. Shimazu showed us
the ways brightly colored tissue papers
might become delicate cranes, even
in a child’s awkward hands.

That year, I remember, he read aloud to us
stories without pain or tears. And he never
said what his own story must have been
when the dust of war blanketed his world.

But one tranquil California day when
my country was on fire, he handed me
that incendiary book, for reasons
I’ll never know.

Kenneth Salzmann is the author of The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems and of the interview series How to Grow a Poem, which appears weekly on Substack.
2024, Volume 75, Number 08 (January 2024)
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