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Mitsuye Yamada


My father’s voice came to me

from the corner of his cell

marked Dangerous Enemy Alien

Do not sign your legal name

to anything not

on petitions for any cause

in the street

at meetings or rallies

not on receipts for orders

special deliveries or C.O.D.s

I was my father’s daughter

I had followed his advice assiduously

never left my thumbprints anywhere

never gave my stamp of approval

to anything

never cast my soulprint in cement

never raised my voice on billboards

and one day disappeared anyway

behind barbed wires.

They put up a sign on buildings

telephone poles and store fronts

For All Persons Who Never Left a Mark

My silences had not protected me.

*"Warning" appears in Yamada's newest collection, Full Circle: New and Selected Poems and is reprinted in The Ear with the author's permission.

About the Author

Mitsuye Yamada was one of the first and most vocal of Asian American women to write about the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans. ​Diane J. Fujino’s 2020 biography, Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake chronicles her life. She lives in Irvine with her family.

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